For an explanation of the methodology of this series, see the introduction.

"For the children of Israel are servants to Me; they are My servants, whom I took out of the land of Egypt. I am the L-rd, your G‑d." (Levit. 25:55)

Peshat (basic meaning):

Rashi: "For the children of Israel are servants to Me":
My contract came before [and thus, when the Jubilee arrives, the servant must be released and revert to being God’s servant rather than man’s].

Be’er Basadeh: I am the Lord, your G‑d:
Whoever subjugates them below [on this earth] is as if he subjugates [them] above [in heaven, for as long as a Jew is enslaved to another human being, he is not free to do the holy service of God Above.]

Remez (hinted meaning):

BeRahamim LeHayyim: Note the special nature of being called "My servants," which in Hebrew, avdi, has a gematria of 86, equal to that of the Name Elokim as well as that of the word for ‘nature’ in Hebrew, ’HaTeva’, meaning that when we are G‑d's servants, we are G‑dly folk in the natural realm.

Derash (interpretive meaning):

...their souls and their bodies are intrinsically holy, independent of their Exodus from Egypt.

Ohr HaChayim: Why did the Torah write "They are my servants"? Perhaps the point that G‑d makes here is that "they are My servants" - of sacred origin, their souls and their bodies are intrinsically holy, independent of their Exodus from Egypt. However, the factor which causes Israel to feel obligated to conduct themselves in a manner befitting holy creatures is "that I took them out of the land of Egypt" Ever since, G‑d says they themselves realize that they are my servants.

Sod (esoteric, mystical meaning):

Zohar Behar 111 Raya Mehemna
"For to Me the children of Israel are servants;" they are commanded to serve [Me] by doing many things in the Temple and out of the Temple, by all the deeds that are called 'service' and to strive to observe the precepts of the Torah, as everything is called 'service,' like a servant laboring to fulfill his master's needs.

He therefore called Israel 'servants,' as is written: "For to Me the children of Israel are servants; they are my servants." Why are they servants? Because it is written, "whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt." (Ibid.) It therefore says later, among the Ten Commandments, "I am the L-rd your G‑d, who have brought you out of the land of Egypt," (Ex. 20:2) to serve Him, as a servant does his master who saved him from death and redeemed him from all the evil things in the world.
Israel have two names before G‑d.
Israel have two names before G‑d. They are called 'servants,' as is written, "they are My servants," and they are called 'children,' as is written: "You are the children of the L-rd your G‑d." (Deut. 14:1) For as long as man knows G‑d in a general way, he is called 'a servant' who does as his Master bids him, but has no permission to look into the treasures and the mysteries of His House. When he knows G‑d in a particular way, he is called 'His beloved child,' like the child who is looking at the hidden, at all the mysteries of His House.

Though he is called 'a son,' the firstborn son of G‑d, as is written: " Israel is My son, My firstborn," (Ex. 4:22) he must not exclude himself from being a servant who serves his Father in everything that glorifies His Father. So should any man be in relation to his father. A child who looks at his secrets and knows the mysteries of his house and strives after them, should be [also] a servant to his father.

BeRahamim LeHayyim:
With one fell swoop we are transported to the Rosh Hashanah Musaf prayer, where we seek first to be considered children to Avinu (‘our Father’) and then servants to Malkeinu (‘our King’). The strong bonds to our father relates to the world of Atzilut, according to Kabbalah, for the connection of a child to the parent who shares the same DNA is as close as it gets. [Avinu, "our father", is repeated in the paragraph 3 times.]

The relation of a servant to his Master, on the other hand, concerns the "lower" realms of Beriya, Yetzira, and Asiya. In the beginning of our Jewish Year we crown G‑d as our King and we are His servants, but still we want Malkeinu to foremost remember that He is Avinu.

For although a servant may be able to walk through the Holy Palace, he or she is not given free reign to the family secrets.

We, though, want the family secrets. We want to know the secrets of the heart, not those found in books. We want to access that still small voice, a voice only shared amongst intimate family members.

To be opened to these secrets requires wearing the proper clothing at the proper time. These garments are the mitzvot, those precepts which open us up to G‑d's Will. And these garments need to be worn with kavod and tiferet (honor and beauty), meaning with intent and not just haphazardly dressed.

It gets the ire of the nations that we have a Torah that says we are G‑d’s firstborn — not the best — but the firstborn with all that entails.

Talk to our Father in Heaven, hallowed be His Name. Ask not what His Kingdom can do for you, but what you can do for His Kingdom.

Copyright 2003 by, a project of Ascent of Safed (// All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.