Free Your Slaves!

Naomi Chazan writes in The Miami Herald:

Passover is the festival of Jewish emancipation from slavery and the prejudice, injustice, and inhumanity it entails. Over the centuries, this holiday — which coincides with the joy of spring — has come to symbolize the universal quest for individual and collective freedom.
This year, the Passover season serves as a painful reminder that those who systematically deny others their liberty and trample on their basic rights cannot themselves be truly independent. Israel has controlled the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since 1967, and continues to do so against the will of the Palestinians, who have repeatedly resisted Israeli rule.

It’s a provoking piece, and is made all the more relevant by the following portion of text, written in Mea Sharim thirty years ago:

The homiletical explanation of the Talmud Yerushalmi Rosh Hashana on the sentence “and He commanded the Jewish people” is that He commanded that they release their own slaves. This is deduced from Jeremiah (34.13):
“Thus says the Lord, I made a covenant with your Fathers on the day I took them out from the Land of Egypt, from the house of bondage saying at the end of seven years each person shall release his Hebrew slave.”
The Rabbis explain that the meaning of the phrase “On the day that I took you out” indicates that this command to release slaves was given in Egypt before the receiving of the Torah.
Thus the sentence “and He commanded the Jewish people and Pharoh King of Egypt to release the Children of Israel out of the land of Egypt” is explained as referring to the Jewish people as well.
Thus “to release the Jewish people from the land of Egypt” refers both to those who didn’t want to leave (that they should understand the superiority of freedom over slavery) and to the rich, that they should release their slaves immediately.
This is how I have understood the manuscript Yalkut Albichani. “What did He command the Jewish people? He commanded that they should release their slaves in order that they should go out free themselves;” a command not just for future generations but also given at that moment as well.
From the above Yalkut “in order that they should go free” one can see a fundamental ethical idea: Namely that a human being is not worthy to be free, truly liberated, if he enslaves others.
This essential justice, this prinicple of the love of humanity, ie., “What is hateful to you don’t do to your fellow,” the Torah proclaimed more than 3,200 years ago as the very first command given to the Jewish people in Egypt.
To our great sorrow this thought has still not penetrated the hearts of men. Who knows when enlightenment will dawn?

Who were the Jewish slave owners in Egypt? Apparently there’s a midrash which explains it was the Levites — hence why they become servants, and are not entitled to a portion of the land of Israel.
Who are the slave owners today? As Ms. Chazan suggests, we should each take a good hard look in the mirror…

12 thoughts on “Free Your Slaves!

  1. You are quoting? I will quote.
    [Numbers chapter 33]
    “53 And ye shall drive out the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein; for unto you have I given the land to possess it. 54 And ye shall inherit the land by lot according to your families–to the more ye shall give the more inheritance, and to the fewer thou shalt give the less inheritance; wheresoever the lot falleth to any man, that shall be his; according to the tribes of your fathers shall ye inherit. 55 But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then shall those that ye let remain of them be as thorns in your eyes, and as pricks in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land wherein ye dwell. 56 And it shall come to pass, that as I thought to do unto them, so will I do unto you. ”
    Don’t quote the out-of-context while leaving out the in-context.

  2. oh you wanna play that game? ok, let’s play that game.
    devarim 30:1
    hosea 1:6
    zecharia 4:6
    tzefania 3: 19-20
    yeshayah 52:12
    yeshayah 45:17
    yechezkel 11:14-21
    you at all familiar with àôñ áìúê?

  3. All these quotes to say that jews will be punished for not keeping the Torah? Is that what you wanted to let me know? Don’t you think I know that.
    That does not mean it is good or that if we could we shouldn’t go to israel!! Whats with you? It was against our will that we were exiled becasue we didn’t follow the Torah.
    And that “Efes Biltecha” link – thats neturei karta. They are so ignorant in their interpretations – that pamphlet is like those missionary handouts where they find all these quotes to back up their claims to their idol/messiah. Those quotes are always out of context and only work as soundbites.
    You are quoting punishments I am quoting what should be without punishment.
    By your logic Jews should commit suicide because of where it says that we will be killed for transgressing the Torah.
    It says we will be killed just like it says we will be exiled. So if you use that to imply we should not be in Israel then by the same logic we should also not be alive.

  4. is nobody noticing that “out of context” it’s the universal golden rule which everyone digs, the Kantian definition of morality in a sentence which has been found in one form or another in all cultures, and “in context” it’s this very terrestrial or profrane “Zeus/Mazda/Dagon/Kern unnos/Jupiter hath commanded us to take what’s ours so don;t be a malingerer and spear yourself a Celt/Greek/Carthaginian /Jew/Bythinian for the gipper” crap? is that why they call the one guy a schmo?

  5. no schmo, obviously, you are very daft. because those quotes say that we should only return to the land of israel when god puts us there. not by force, not by war, not by ethnic cleansing, not by any means at all but one: moshiach. and he ain’t here yet.
    that is what those quotes say.
    nice of you to pull out the biblical commandment to ethnically cleanse canaan, tho. fortunately that was pre-galut, and i don’t see any canaanites around! just a lot of arabs!

  6. Really Mobius thats what they say?
    I suppose we have to quote in full then since those who don’t look up these quotes might be mislead. Let anyone who reads decide if the point is not that due to our sins we will be punished and removed from the land. The first few quotes were talking to and about Jews when we were still on the land. The last are addredded too.
    There is a difference between “surface learning” and “real learning” – here go study…
    In order:
    devarim 30:1 http://www.mechon-mamre.org/e/
    “1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt bethink thyself among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, 2 and shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and hearken to His voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul; 3 that then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the peoples, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. ”
    hosea 1:6 http://www.mechon-mamre.org/e/
    “5 And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.’ 6 And she conceived again, and bore a daughter. And He said unto him: ‘Call her name Lo-ruhamah; for I will no more have compassion upon the house of Israel, that I should in any wise pardon them.”
    zecharia 4:6 6
    “Then he answered and spoke unto me, saying: ‘This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying: Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. 7 Who art thou, O great mountain before Zerubbabel? thou shalt become a plain; and he shall bring forth the top stone with shoutings of Grace, grace, unto it.'”
    but before the visions in Chapter 1 it says:
    “1 In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo, the prophet, saying: 2 ‘The LORD hath been sore displeased with your fathers. 3 Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts: Return unto Me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. 4 Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets proclaimed, saying: Thus saith the LORD of hosts: Return ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings; but they did not hear, nor attend unto Me, saith the LORD. 5 Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever? 6 But My words and My statutes, which I commanded My servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers? so that they turned and said: Like as the LORD of hosts purposed to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath He dealt with us.'”
    He is now promising Zerubbabel that God will make him succesful because it is not by the might bu what I God wants. The point was not by the might of the nations who are oppressing you. He in fact was telling Zerubbabel to take action and to rebuild the Temple even against the might of the nations.
    “9 ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. ”
    Then you bring quotes that simply say that God will perform miracles for us that and that the nations will be swept away from before God. Of course He will do it! Without Him nobody can win. But just like by Zerubbabel and by Hannukah we have to take action and God will back us up. Just like when we won against Sihon and Og with Moses. We fought but God made us successful. so too here.
    tzefania 3: 19-20 http://www.mechon-mamre.org/e/
    “19 Behold, at that time I will deal with all them that afflict thee; and I will save her that is lame, and gather her that was driven away; and I will make them to be a praise and a name, whose shame hath been in all the earth. 20 At that time will I bring you in, and at that time will I gather you; for I will make you to be a name and a praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I turn your captivity before your eyes, saith the LORD.”
    yeshayah 52:12 http://www.mechon-mamre.org/e/
    “12 For ye shall not go out in haste, neither shall ye go by flight; for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rearward. ”
    yeshayah 45:17 http://www.mechon-mamre.org/e/
    “17 O Israel, that art saved by the LORD with an everlasting salvation; ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.”
    yechezkel 11:14-21 http://www.mechon-mamre.org/e/
    “14 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying: 15 ‘Son of man, as for thy brethren, even thy brethren, the men of thy kindred, and all the house of Israel, all of them, concerning whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said: Get you far from the LORD! unto us is this land given for a possession; {S} 16 therefore say: Thus saith the Lord GOD: Although I have removed them far off among the nations, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet have I been to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they are come; {S} 17 therefore say: Thus saith the Lord GOD: I will even gather you from the peoples, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. 18 And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence. 19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh; 20 that they may walk in My statutes, and keep Mine ordinances, and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord GOD.'”
    Again all these later quotes do not mean that we shouldn’t take action.
    Compare to whatv is stated regarding Sihon and Og whom we fought against in the time of Moses. We fought but God made us successful. So too here.
    Devarim 1,4 “after He had smitten Sihon the king of the Amorites, who dwelt in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who dwelt in Ashtaroth, at Edrei;”
    So it says that God smote. So one might mistakenly imply that we didn’t smite.
    Therefore you have the next quote to show that there is no contradiction.
    “Devarim 3,1 Then we turned, and went up the way to Bashan; and Og the king of Bashan came out against us, he and all his people, unto battle at Edrei. 3,2 And the LORD said unto me: ‘Fear him not; for I have delivered him, and all his people, and his land, into thy hand; and thou shalt do unto him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt at Heshbon.’ 3,3 So the LORD our God delivered into our hand Og also, the king of Bashan, and all his people; and we smote him until none was left to him remaining.”

  7. that then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the peoples, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.
    The LORD…not the Stern Gang. Schmo, are you reading any of these?

  8. Oh man k&y,
    Thats because we will have no power – when we are amongst the nations who control us. Its not saying that we shouldn’t its just the fact that after we are powerless the Lord will not forsake us.
    Take a look at the prayer on Hanukah we say “In the time of Matithyayu….You fought our fight…You jusdged our judgment…” but didn’t the macabees fight?
    The point is that when we win the Lord helped us.

  9. This is the unforgivable Medieval Christian judicial doctrine might-makes-right or trial by combat, wherein y’all juss go at it and whoever wins was obviously favored all along by God.
    Or bigger.

  10. No, I havent heard of that docrine but of course i dont agree with that doctrine. If so we would have had to turn christian because they were stronger all these years.
    We are right becasue we are right – details for another time. Its becasue we are right that I know that in the end we will persevere – not the other way around!

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