Midreshet Amit


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Freedom and Independence

By: Lauren Ibgui and Shannon Kaufmann

The opening pesukim of this week’s parsha, Parshat Mishpatim, talk about the laws of slaves – how long they work, when they go free, what happens to their family, etc. At first glance, these laws do not seem relevant to our lives since none of us own or plan on becoming slaves. However, as with everything in the Torah, there are always valuable messages embedded in every pasuk that apply to our everyday lives in every time and place.

The pesukim tell us that Hebrew slaves are to work for six years and to be set free in the seventh. If, however, there is a slave that does not want to be set free, the Torah lays out the procedure that enables him to remain a slave for longer. His master has to bring him to the Beit Din near the doorpost next to the mezuzah, and pierce his ear; then the slave will remain in servitude until the Yovel year.

But why would a slave not want to leave?! Doesn’t everyone long for freedom?

Rabbi Adam Lieberman points out that it is embedded in human nature to be afraid of change. We are naturally nervous to leave our comfort zone, to do something different that we are not used to; we are hesitant to become independent. The Torah here is encouraging freedom and independence. It is giving the message that the slave SHOULD go free in the seventh year. His servitude should not be indefinite. It should have a set end-date at which time he should leave his master, strike out on his own, and become independent.

The procedure that a slave must undergo if he wants to remain a slave beyond his initial six years is that he has to have his ear pierced. Why do we pierce the servant’s ear? Rashi explains that the very ear that heard on Har Sinai that Hasham shall be your only Master but now is choosing to have a human master, shall be pierced. The Torah is clearly giving the message that it does not approve of lengthening the period of slavery. The Torah is pushing us and encouraging us to move on and become independent.

Now we can see how pesukim which might have at first seemed outdated are actually extremely relevant to our lives. We ourselves are right now in the middle of a year that is all about becoming independent. We too had to leave our comfort zones, and we were nervous and hesitant. But the Torah is right here with us, encouraging us to take a chance, and to become more independent. There can be nothing more enriching and rewarding.