December 15, 2017 ~ Shabbat MIQES. Maqam SIGAH.

Shabbat Mishpatim

The Hebrew Slave

כי תקנה עבד עברי - Soon after being freed from slavery, the Covenant Code (Exodus 21-23) begins with the laws of a Hebrew slave. Rather than attempt to completely abolish slavery, the Torah recognizes this institution as a practical means to provide the poor with a safety net (clothing, food, shelter) in exchange for their labor. The focus here is not whether one owned slaves, but rather how they treated them. The slave typically works in order to repay a debt and biblical guidelines mandate that he is set free on the seventh year. One should not make the mistake of equating the humane treatment of the Hebrew slave with the slavery practiced in other societies. A high level of kindness and dignity is expected from the master, and the master is responsible for the slave's physical well-being. The Talmud states that "One who purchases a Hebrew slave is acquiring for himself a master (TB Qiddushin 22a)." Beth Torah Bulletin, 2/25/17.