Sha‘ar ha-mitsvot (The Gate of Commandments)

Ḥayim Vital

Second half of the 16th Century

Explanation of Commandments of the Seventh Year

By way of our prayers and our practical commandments that we perform below, we need to cause a coupling of the male and the female, and we raise them up to the same seven kings through the secret of the feminine waters, to the female of Ze‘ir anpin [lesser countenance]. Then they are renewed and repaired and return to seeing, through the secret of the resurrection of the dead. And each and every day, sparks and portions of them are extracted, level after level, according to the potency of our prayers and our deeds at that time, and they rise up and are renewed. Thus we do always, on every day, until the completion of the extraction of all the good and holiness that is in these kings, and everything is repaired. And the slag that is the shells within them will remain below, under the aspect of evil. And about them it is written: He will swallow up death forever (Isaiah 25:8), and all evil will be consumed like smoke. “And the son of David [the Messiah] will not come until all of the souls in the body are finished” [b. Yevamot 62a], and all of the aspects of these kings are completely extracted. [ . . . ]

And behold, on the weekdays we extract these kings by way of the active commandments that we fulfill through labor [melakhah], which is not the case on the Sabbath . . . for the labors are an indication that things need tikkun through our actions. . . . We need to plow and sow and remove the straw and chaff, since they are the shells of the wheat. Afterwards we remove the bran and fiber, which are finer shells. Still afterwards it needs to be baked and fixed by fire, for this is the final step of the labor. And this is the way of all of the other labors of the world. And the reason for the toil of these labors . . . is that each and every one of the worlds, and all that is within them, is all from that which is extracted and rises and is repaired from the seven kings who died. And if there had been no slag in them from the beginning, then they would not have died, as is known, and they would not have been in need of extraction and tikkun at all. But since the slag and shells were mixed into them, and they therefore died and were canceled out, then now, in order to repair them and extract them and purify them, we need to toil and to perform all of the labors by way of the active commandments that are present at the time of planting: You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed (Leviticus 19:19). And indeed, this is the way of each and every labor. . . . For there is nothing in all of the four worlds that is not made from the extraction of these kings. Thus, all of the matters of this lower world, which are from the inferior extractions, can only be extracted after many labors and repairs. And all of this is by way of the commandments performed by human beings. This is according to the secret: In all your ways, know Him (Proverbs 3:6). [ . . . ]

But the Sabbath day . . . has within it the ability to rise up . . . above, and it conjoins with Ze‘ir anpin there above, for the six extremities also rise up to there on the Sabbath day, within [the world of] emanation (atsilut). And there is nothing there to extract, for the extractions are below in [the worlds of] Creation, Formation, and Action [respectively, beriyah, yetsirah and ‘asiyah], in which there is good and evil. Indeed, they couple and bring forth new supernal souls that are not from the aspect of the extraction of the seven kings, as during the six profane days of the week. . . . And from this, that which is written in our Sabbath homilies will become clear to you, that all of the worlds rise up above, until eyn sof, in order to draw new souls from there, and not from the extraction of the seven kings. For He is the supernal source. . . . And behold, because of the fact that on the Sabbath day no extraction is done, all of the labors are forbidden on the Sabbath, even those that feed the soul. For the entire matter regards a new thing. . . . For on the Sabbath day, everything is made from Him, since they are new souls.

Translated by
Bronze amulet with decorative border and Hebrew inscription.
Tooltip info icon
This cast and gilded bronze amulet from Italy includes a pair of dolphins as a design element. It is inscribed in Hebrew: “May no evil grieve you.”


Ḥayim (ben Joseph) Vital, “Biur mitsvot shevi’it (Explanation of Commandments of the Seventh Year),” in Shaʻar ha-mitsvot (The Gate of Commandments) (Jerusalem: Shmuel Zuckerman, 1904/5), p. 25b.

Published in: The Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization, vol. 5.

Engage with this Source

You may also like