We begin this week’s review with a very big and exciting mazel tov to our friends Bonnie and Heshie Schertz upon the engagement earlier this week of their beautiful and ebullient daughter Elissa to Adam Kirshner.
Mazel tov to the entire extended Schertz and Miller families. A very special mazel tov shout out to Elissa’s grandmother Gloria Schertz. Mazel tov as well to Adam’s entire family. May Elissa and Adam merit to enjoy many decades of blissful marriage.
Raboyseyee and Ladies,
The Perks of Jewish Slavery
The fun, games, and adventures of the past few weeks are over. The Yiddin have witnessed many miracles: plagues, their enslavers suddenly letting them borrow –permanently- all sorts of valuables – gold, silver and even clothing, freedom, splitting of the sea, sweet potable water in the desert, and mun food falling from the sky. Life was good; the dating with the RBSO was going well, they were contemplating marriage.
And taka in last week’s parsha, some 50 days after being freed from slavery, the Yiddin did just that; metaphorically avada, they married the RBSO and accepted Him as their new Master. Did they act impetuously? Why would a nation of people who suffered so as slaves under Paroy be so willing to accept a new boss along with His heylige Toirah with all its restrictions? Ver veyst? Is it shayich that they said yes -we will do and listen- without thinking things over? Or, were they forced into the marriage kicking and screaming? Grada there is an opinion suggesting that they were, and only in connection with the Purim story –following the miracles Esther pulled off -avada after reaching out and touching the royal scepter- did they willingly accept the RBSO’s heylige Toirah; that topic for another day. Seemingly good things happen when the royal scepter gets touched. The heylige Gemora (Shabbis 88a) tells us the RBSO held a mountain over their heads and gave them an ultimatum.
This week: The Yiddin are about to hear the details of their wedding vows. Moishe begins this week’s parsha of Mishpotim with a surprise topic, Jewish slavery! OMG! Slavery? Nuch-a-mul (again)? Was slavery the most appropriate topic to begin with? Were the Yiddin ready to discuss so painful a topic? Why not ease them into the 613 commandments? Logic would dictate that after 210 years of slavery in Mitzrayim, the last thing the Yiddin would want to hear from Moishe was more slave talk. Ober as our parsha opens, what is being discussed? What are the first ever rules given by the RBSO post Revelation? How to celebrate upcoming Yomim tovim (holidays)? Not! Marriage, divorce? Also not! The Oisvorfer can think of many a mitzvah –positive and even negative- to have begun with, why jump into a topic still very much fresh and sore? Then again, who are we to tell the RBSO in which order the mitzvos should be given?
Though our parsha contains 53 (so says the Sefer Hachinuch, Rambam disagrees) new laws, for reasons we don’t chap –maybe it’s none of our business- the RBSO decided that slavery might be an interesting topic to lead with. Was it efsher the case that certain forms of slavery are not so giferlich? Can slavery be compassionate? Does slavery come with benefits? We shall discuss these questions below.
It’s avada difficult to imagine slavery in our times. Modern sensibilities do not allow us to fathom slavery in any form, especially Jewish slavery. On the other hand, why not slavery? After all, they were already well versed in the topic. One opinion suggests that’s taka what the RBSO had in mind: they had experienced a bad form of slavery and He was about to introduce slavery of a different flavor. Let’s also consider that the Yiddin having just undergone over two centuries of ruthless persecution, were experts in the topic. The RBSO avada chapped that they would appreciate the compassion and a surprise benefit –as we will read below- of the slavery the heylige Toirah was about to lay out. Accordingly, He chose to begin the halachic code of the heylige Toirah with matters pertaining to the master-slave relationship. Another opinion suggests that after 210 years, that’s all they knew. The RBSO too wasn’t very keen on slavery but wanted to slowly wean the Yiddin off.
|1. And these are the ordinances that you shall set before them.||אוְאֵ֨לֶּה֙ הַמִּשְׁפָּטִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר תָּשִׂ֖ים לִפְנֵיהֶֽם:|
|2. Should you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall work for six years, and in the seventh [year], he shall go out to freedom without charge.||בכִּ֤י תִקְנֶה֙ עֶ֣בֶד עִבְרִ֔י שֵׁ֥שׁ שָׁנִ֖ים יַֽעֲבֹ֑ד וּבַ֨שְּׁבִעִ֔ת יֵצֵ֥א לַֽחָפְשִׁ֖י חִנָּֽם:|
|3. If he comes in alone, he shall go out alone; if he is a married man, his wife shall go out with him.||גאִם־בְּגַפּ֥וֹ יָבֹ֖א בְּגַפּ֣וֹ יֵצֵ֑א אִם־בַּ֤עַל אִשָּׁה֙ ה֔וּא וְיָֽצְאָ֥ה אִשְׁתּ֖וֹ עִמּֽוֹ:
|4. If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone.||דאִם־אֲדֹנָיו֙ יִתֶּן־ל֣וֹ אִשָּׁ֔ה וְיָֽלְדָה־לּ֥וֹ בָנִ֖ים א֣וֹ בָנ֑וֹת הָֽאִשָּׁ֣ה וִֽילָדֶ֗יהָ תִּֽהְיֶה֙ לַֽאדֹנֶ֔יהָ וְה֖וּא יֵצֵ֥א בְגַפּֽוֹ:|
|5. But if the slave says, “I love my master, my wife, and my children. I will not go free,”||הוְאִם־אָמֹ֤ר יֹאמַר֙ הָעֶ֔בֶד אָהַ֨בְתִּי֙ אֶת־אֲדֹנִ֔י אֶת־אִשְׁתִּ֖י וְאֶת־בָּנָ֑י לֹ֥א אֵצֵ֖א חָפְשִֽׁי:|
|6. His master shall bring him to the judges, and he shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost, and his master shall bore his ear with an awl, and he shall serve him forever.||ווְהִגִּישׁ֤וֹ אֲדֹנָיו֙ אֶל־הָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים וְהִגִּישׁוֹ֙ אֶל־הַדֶּ֔לֶת א֖וֹ אֶל־הַמְּזוּזָ֑ה וְרָצַ֨ע אֲדֹנָ֤יו אֶת־אָזְנוֹ֙ בַּמַּרְצֵ֔עַ וַֽעֲבָד֖וֹ לְעֹלָֽם:|
|7. Now if a man sells his daughter as a maidservant, she shall not go free as the slaves go free.||זוְכִֽי־יִמְכֹּ֥ר אִ֛ישׁ אֶת־בִּתּ֖וֹ לְאָמָ֑ה לֹ֥א תֵצֵ֖א כְּצֵ֥את הָֽעֲבָדִֽים:|
“Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them. If you buy a Hebrew slave, six years he shall serve, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself. If his master has given him a wife and she has born him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. And if the slave shall plainly say, “I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free.” Then his master shall bring him to the judges; he shall also bring him to the door or to the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.
Did you read that? What the hec is going on here? If he –the salve- came by himself, he leaves alone? What if he came with a wife? So happens that is mamish a rarity, if you chap, ober that being said, zicher there were those already married who became slaves. And did you read that his master can give him a wife, and that she and kids produced from their union belong to the master? Were Jewish slaves being used for breeding purposes? Who in their right mind would want a Jewish slave? And while the heylige Toirah does provide the broad strokes of who this person might have been, many a detail were mistama told to Moishe which he then transmitted orally. As you can imagine, the heylige Gemora and many an exegete discussed and argued over each and every nuance. Many folios of the heylige Gemora deal with this topic, ober in this short review being written while the Oisvorfer is away in sunny Florida, we will but zero in on one or two interesting factoids.
How does one become a Jewish slave? Let’s start there: To qualify, one needed to be a thief, one who was caught. His case having been adjudicated by the Beis Din (Jewish court system), judgment rendered to repay stolen monies which he did not have- the defendant was sold by the court –into slavery- for nonpayment of the principal of his theft. The heylige Gemora will add azoy: if he has enough money to repay the principal but not enough to pay any additional fines imposed on him as punishment for his crime, -penalty monies- he is not sold into slavery. So far this all sounds rather logical. So happens that once sold, the minimum slave sentence was six years. Veyter.
Let’s chazir what we know so far: a free man can be sold into slavery to a goy for nonpayment of stolen monies. So happens that our parsha deals with the case of a man who stole something but is now unable to restore the stolen object or its value. Later in the Sefer Vayikro and again in Devorim, we will be reading of voluntarily slavery where a person in poverty sells himself as a slave, ober those for another day. In other words: there is more than one way to become a slave. Marriage comes to mind; that too for another day. Why the heylige Toirah chose to break up the various rules governing slavery, ver veyst. And as to why the RBSO dealt so harshly with the gonif (crook) in our parsha, also ver veyst. The bottom line: the gonif either pays, or is sold into slavery. Says the heylige Toirah (22:2): “He shall make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.
So far so good, but is it? Does turning a free man into a slave not create other issues? Does his enslavement not cut the husband off from his eishes chayil (Jewish wife)? Who will take care of her (and him), if you chap? Ober not to worry because if you read the pisukim above, you will read this most amazing law which says azoy: his master may instruct the slave to live with, sleep with, and have children with a shiksa K’anaanite maidservant. Moreover, when servitude is over, she -the shiksa- and the kids they produced during the six years, all become the master’s property. You hear this raboyseyee? Let’s read those instructions again. “If his master has given him a wife and she has born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.”
What? He gets married, has kids, and must leave them behind? What’s pshat? Is this a punishment or a reward? Nowadays were someone to hook up with a shiksa –K’nananite or any other, and have children with her –especially while also married to a nice Jewish girl who’s waiting for him at home while he’s off gallivanting and erecting a family on the side- he’d be paying millions of dollars in support just too keep the matter quiet, ober here in our parsha, the Toirah explicitly grants his master the right to couple his Jewish slave with a non-Jewish slave woman for purposes of procreation and breeding? Shoin, suddenly slavery doesn’t sound too bad. In other words: slavery seemingly came with a shiksa to enjoy and procreate with. Moreover, when done, the kids born out of wedlock and the shiksa stay behind; he has no further obligations to house, feed, or support them. And he? Seemingly he goes back to his Jewish wife; is that efsher when the real slavery begins? Avada we kid.
Ober, what taka happens if the defendant was already married when sold into slavery? What happens to his real Jewish wife during the sentence? Does he see her, sleep with her, and have kids with her? Nu, based on the Toirah’s instruction, “if he came alone, he leaves alone,” we assume –and correctly so- that if he was sold while married, that his wife comes along for the six years and then leaves with him. That is taka the law. How does the wife feel about her husband also living with and having other children with the shiksa? Ver veyst? And what happens to her while he’s working? Does she work as well? Does she get any benefits, or are they reserved only to those sold into slavery? And if the boss gives him a shiksa to chap and procreate with, who’s taking care of the Jewish wife’s needs, if you chap?
This issue so boggles the mind that it requires more chazoroh, review. What we know so far: even if married when sold into slavery and even if she also comes to live in his master’s house and despite concerns about maintaining the integrity of the slave’s original family structure, his master is permitted to give him a shiksa maidservant as a wife, one who might bear him children whom he leaves behind as she and they are forever the master’s property. How could the heylige Toirah allow this? Does the Toirah condone Jewish men having sex and kids from a shiksa? And what is the status of the shiksa wife and kids after he leaves?
And we also know this: the master is no longer his “master,” after six years because the time for his freedom has arrived. The woman is not his “wife,” since there cannot exist a halachic husband-wife relationship where one of the partners is not Jewish. And the children are not halachically his, because they are non-Jewish slaves! Ois husband and ois father, over and out! Still our sages of the heylige Gemora were still left wondering how the RBSO allowed the master to facilitate a Jew-shiksa six year relationship and came up with this scenario. Of course the master may only give him a shiksa –not a Jewish girl- for pleasure and procreation. Moreover, they also decided that the shiksa went to the mikveh. Why would a shiksa go to the mikveh? What porpoise does that serve? Seemingly there are two types of immersion; there is immersion for the sake of slavery and immersion for the sake of conversion. And while she taka went to the mikveh and was therefore kosher for sleeping and childbearing services, she wasn’t kosher enough for real conversion. How all that works, ver veyst? The bottom line: as an enslavement perk, he gets to have a shiksa wife and kids from her. Once done, in the seventh year, he returns to his family, his Jewish wife and children. Shoin!
Ober how could this Jewish slave be married to a shiksa? Doesn’t the heylige Gemora teach us that there is no such thing? In other words: there is no legal mechanism for a Jew to marry a shiksa; the marriage arrangements are null and void from the get go. Says the Ibn Ezra azoy: the slave in question was taka a descendant of Avrohom Ovenu, ober he is a descendant of Yishmoale, or maybe Eisav, or perhaps a descendant of Amoin or Moiav. Who are they? How soon you forgot that Avrohom’s nephew Loit bedded both daughters and each gave birth; one to Moiav and the other to Amoin. In other words: this slave wasn’t really too Jewish himself; efsher not at all. Why not? Because the heylige Toirah would never permit a shiksa K’naanite to be married to a descendant of Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov. Avada we must give credit to our sages of the heylige Gemora who figured these things out based on the facts revealed to us by the heylige Toirah and then orally by Moise; their job was to make these rules fit together and seemingly they did just that. Shoin: if we assume that scenario, we can chap how a Hebrew slave can be given a shiksa K’naanite maidservant as a wife in order for them to have children who will –in the end- become her master’s slaves.
Ober guess what? The Ibn Ezra himself rejects his own pshat and understands the passage in accordance with halachic tradition, that we are indeed dealing with a slave who is mamish taka Jewish, say it’s not so. Ober is this allowed? Does the Toirah allow a Jewish male –slave or not- to be married to a shiksa of any sort? Not! What to do? When stuck, create a new scenario, one that goes azoy: Says the Ibn Ezra and others azoy, the scenario was this. The shiksa maidservant converted and went to the mikveh. All good? Not! Though she went to the mikveh, her dip was for slavery purposes only. In other words: her mikveh dipping and her conversion were not the real deal but good enough only to be living with, sleeping with, and having children with the Jewish slave selected by her boss. This conversion and immersion is distinct –seemingly quite different- from immersion for the purpose of real conversion. Shoin! They do add this caveat: her dip in the mikveh was for full-fledged conversion– so that she is now obligated to fulfill the Toirah’s commandments like any other Jewess. Her designation, “k’naanite maidservant,” relates to her origins, not to her current personal status, when she “marries” the Hebrew slave. As an aside, another few pages can be written about the case of a female Jewish slave, ober that too for another day.
The bottom line: though the RBSO did allow and facilitate for slavery in certain instances. The RBSO zicher chapped that a nation of former slaves would need time –efsher generations- to change, to become fully unshackled, and to conclude on their own that slavery –even with certain perks- was wrong.
A gittin Shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv