Freedom Over Slavery

The master must provide for his slaves, Hebrew and Canaanite, and for their wives and children, according to halakha.

Professor Gerald Aranoff,

Judaism Prof. G. Aranoff
Prof. G. Aranoff
INN:GA

We are a free people in a free country

All are free and equal citizens

There is no class of dependent slaves in Israel today

The beginning of this week’s parsha is about the Hebrew slave: If he came single, he shall leave single; if he had a wife, his wife shall leave with him. If his master gave him a wife, and she has borne him children, the wife and her children shall belong to the master, and he shall leave alone. But if the slave declares, “I love my master, and my wife and children: I do not wish to go free,” his master shall take him before God.  He shall be brought to the door or the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall then remain his slave for life (Ex. 21.3-6).

For the Hebrew slave, if he had a wife, meant a wife he married according to Deuteronomy 24:5 When a man has taken a bride, he shall not go out with the army or be assigned to it for any purpose; he shall be exempt one year for the sake of his household, to give happiness to the woman he has married.  

 Deuteronomy 24:1 states: A man takes a wife and possesses her. She fails to please him because he finds something repellent about her, and he writes her a bill of divorce, hands it to her, and sends her away from his house.  Married according to Deuteronomy 24:1 only when A man takes (married her with money) a wife (lit. woman) and (understood as and/or)  possesses her (lit. had sexual relations with her, considered marriage).

The Shulchan Aruch (Eben Haezer laws of marriage 26:1) states: “A woman is not considered married to a man only unless united in proper marriage.”

The husband has obligations. As stated in Exodus 21:10 he must not withhold from this one her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights. The husband must give happiness to the woman he has married (Deuteronomy 24:5).

In Exodus 21:5 the slave declares, “I love my master…  Wow! Why is he saying such words?

I submit we have a situation with a master such as the Biblical Job.  A Talmudic opinion is that Moses wrote the Book of Job.

Baba Bathra 15a:

“You say that Moses wrote his book and the section (the book) of Balaam and Job. This supports the opinion of R. Joshua b. Levi ben Lahma who said that Job was contemporary with Moses  [The proof is that] it is written here O [איפוא] that my words were written down; Would they were inscribed in a record (Job 19:23). And it is written elsewhere For how shall [אפוא] it be known that Your people have gained Your favor unless You go with us, so that we may be distinguished, Your people and I, from every people on the face of the earth? (Ex. 33:16).

Job was immensely wealthy and had many slaves.  Job was fearful of God and a most learned teacher and prophet. Job talks of his slaves and of the poor: Did I ever brush aside the case of my servants, man or maid, When they made a complaint against me? What then should I do when God arises; When He calls me to account, what should I answer Him? Did not He who made me in my mother’s belly make him? Did not One form us both in the womb? Did I deny the poor their needs, Or let a widow pine away (Job 31:13-17).

We can well understand with a good master such as Job, the slave declares, I love my master.  The good master provides ample food, clothing and shelter for his slave.  In the Torah, a good master also provides a Canaanite slave woman for the unmarried Hebrew slave (Ex. 21:4) If his master gave him a wife, and she has borne him children, the wife and her children shall belong to the master, and he shall leave alone. This is just sex to have more children slaves for the master.  The Hebrew slave does not marry as in Deuteronomy 24 the non-Jewish woman slave the master provides.

The master must provide for his slaves, Hebrew and Canaanite, and for their wives and children.  

In Israel today we have no slavery and no second class citizens. 

Kiddushin 22b:

“Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai used to expound this verse   as precious stone. Why was the ear singled out from all the other limbs of the body? The Holy One, blessed be He, said: This ear, which heard my Voice on Mount Sinai when I proclaimed, For unto me the children of Israel are servants, they are my servants, and not servants of servants, and yet this [man] went and acquired a master for himself   let it be bored! R. Simeon b. Rabbi too expounded this verse as a precious stone. Why were the door and doorpost singled out from all other parts of the house? The Holy One, blessed be He, said: The door and the doorpost, which were witnesses in Egypt when I passed over the lintel and the doorposts and proclaimed, For unto me the children of Israel are servants, they are my servants, and not servants of servants, and so I brought them forth from bondage to freedom, yet this [man] went and acquired a master for himself, let him be bored in their presence!”

Israel is free market and private-sector oriented. Israel tries to make the pie bigger.  In Europe and in the US today there is more emphasis on how to divide the pie. The left-wing views dominate.  The Left wants to expand the federal government to more areas of responsibility for health, welfare, education, and jobs. 

Much of Western Europe has a longer history of welfare-state political views.  US President Obama speaks frequently of expanding the role of the federal government at the expense of the private sector.  In Greece, the new president promises to increased government provision of food, jobs and housing.  The people become more dependent on the government.  In a sense they become slaves to the government.  Yes, Jewish slaves can choose to remain slaves. 

We in Israel choose freedom over slavery.





top