Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Eved Ivri and Eved K'na'ani

I heard an what I like to call a swine d'rush yesterday.  Just as a pig shows external signs of kashrus and hides the signs that prove him to be as tamei as they come, this speech purported to be a d'var torah, but its content was nothing but apikorsus.  I may be particularly sensitive to this brand of chillul HaShem because it was the Union Hagada (sans makkos; not politically correct) that started me on the journey to Truth.

The speaker started by paraphrasing a Moreh N'vuchim, but calling it simply a "Rambam"; you know you are in trouble when that happens.  It was the infamous Moreh N'vuchim that the sacrificial system instituted in the Torah because all primitive nations did that and it would have been too hard to tell them to just stop it.  That was bad enough.  The speaker then went on to say that, "With this principle of the Rambam" -- hang on!  no philosophical principle was being promulgated here, it was a specific statement (misquoted) on a specific topic -- "we can say the same thing about slavery."  WHAT?!?  He took a specific statement out of context from Moreh N'vuchim and then morphed it into a way to claim that the Rambam says anything he finds politically incorrect is simply a concession to a primitive people.  Just for the record, the Rambam in the Mishna Torah does not make any apologies for korbanos.

So here's the straight story.  There are two kinds of avadim: eved ivri and eved k'na'ani.  An eved ivri is a Jew who's work is owned by another Jew for some period of time; basically and indentured servant.  That can happen in one of two ways.  It could be voluntary; a Jew has fallen on hard times sells himself as an indentured servant to pay off debts.  Alternatively, a Jewish thief who cannot repay what he stole may be sold by the court to recompense his victim.  This second way speaks volumes about how the Torah views justice.  The victim is compensated and the perpetrator is put into an environment where he will be treated with respect while paying off his debt.  It is about that sort of eved that Chazal say, "mi sh'kana eved kana rav"/one who acquires a slave acquires a master; the eved ivri must be treated like any other member of the master's family.

Then there is the eved k'na'ani.  On the one hand, he is really property; he can be sold, he is inherited when the master dies, he has no rights to own anything -- whatever comes to him is immediately and automatically acquired by the master.  Moreover, there is an issur for the master to free the eved (except in certain circumstances; we may discuss that some time). 

There is one case where the Torah requires the master to send the eved free with a document of emancipation.  That would kick into effect if the master knocked out his tooth or blinded an eye (or permanently damages any of another 22 parts).  Nowadays, by the way, he would not go free; this is a Torah imposed fine, and we don't impose fines.  Once he is freed, though, he is no longer a goy; he is a full Jew.  The Rambam, in fact (in the Mishna Torah), says that this kind of servitude is actually the beginning of a conversion process.

There is nothing at all politically correct about this; not a proof it is true and good, but a reasonable indication.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…

Thought for the Day: Hydroponically Grown Humans... I Feel Sick

I am quite openly not at all objective about abortion in particular and the treatment of human embryos and fetuses in general.  I am, after all, the survivor of a failed abortion attempt.  Not "thought about it, but couldn't go through with it"; not "made appointment, but then chickened out at the lost moment"; but, "tried a procedure, but was unsuccessful in attempt to abort".  Nonetheless, I try very hard to listen to the liberal arguments (which I also used to chant as part of the general liberal catechism), and am genuinely empathetic to the plight of women who find themselves in that difficult position.

What I heard on NPR this morning, however, has left me feeling physically ill.  You can read about it, if you like, but here's the bottom line:  Scientists in Cambridge have achieved a new record, they fertilized a human ova and then kept it alive in vitro (that is, in a test tube/petri dish in a laboratory) for 14 days.  The scientist involve…