Thursday, April 27, 2006

Eved Ivri

The following is b'nei yisrael's immediate response to ma'amad har sinai and the dialogue which transpires between them and Moshe:

כ,יד וְכָל-הָעָם רֹאִים אֶת-הַקּוֹלֹת וְאֶת-הַלַּפִּידִם, וְאֵת קוֹל הַשֹּׁפָר, וְאֶת-הָהָר, עָשֵׁן; וַיַּרְא הָעָם וַיָּנֻעוּ, וַיַּעַמְדוּ מֵרָחֹק. כ,טו וַיֹּאמְרוּ, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, דַּבֵּר-אַתָּה עִמָּנוּ, וְנִשְׁמָעָה; וְאַל-יְדַבֵּר עִמָּנוּ אֱלֹהִים, פֶּן-נָמוּת. כ,טז וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-הָעָם, אַל-תִּירָאוּ, כִּי לְבַעֲבוּר נַסּוֹת אֶתְכֶם, בָּא הָאֱלֹהִים; וּבַעֲבוּר, תִּהְיֶה יִרְאָתוֹ עַל-פְּנֵיכֶם--לְבִלְתִּי תֶחֱטָאוּ. כ,יז וַיַּעֲמֹד הָעָם, מֵרָחֹק; וּמֹשֶׁה נִגַּשׁ אֶל-הָעֲרָפֶל, אֲשֶׁר-שָׁם הָאֱלֹהִים. {ס}

When Moshe enters the arafel Hashem tells Moshe what he should say (tomar) to b'nei yisrael, seemingly a fulfillment of דַּבֵּר-אַתָּה עִמָּנוּ, וְנִשְׁמָעָה; וְאַל-יְדַבֵּר עִמָּנוּ אֱלֹהִים, פֶּן-נָמוּת. The focus of what Moshe is to tell the people is the proper Avoda that should logically follow from their encounter at Sinai:

כ,יח וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, כֹּה תֹאמַר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: אַתֶּם רְאִיתֶם--כִּי מִן-הַשָּׁמַיִם, דִּבַּרְתִּי עִמָּכֶם. כ,יט לֹא תַעֲשׂוּן, אִתִּי: אֱלֹהֵי כֶסֶף וֵאלֹהֵי זָהָב, לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ לָכֶם. כ,כ מִזְבַּח אֲדָמָה, תַּעֲשֶׂה-לִּי, וְזָבַחְתָּ עָלָיו אֶת-עֹלֹתֶיךָ וְאֶת-שְׁלָמֶיךָ, אֶת-צֹאנְךָ וְאֶת-בְּקָרֶךָ; בְּכָל-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר אַזְכִּיר אֶת-שְׁמִי, אָבוֹא אֵלֶיךָ וּבֵרַכְתִּיךָ. כ,כא וְאִם-מִזְבַּח אֲבָנִים תַּעֲשֶׂה-לִּי, לֹא-תִבְנֶה אֶתְהֶן גָּזִית: כִּי חַרְבְּךָ הֵנַפְתָּ עָלֶיהָ, וַתְּחַלְלֶהָ. כ,כב וְלֹא-תַעֲלֶה בְמַעֲלֹת, עַל-מִזְבְּחִי: אֲשֶׁר לֹא-תִגָּלֶה עֶרְוָתְךָ, עָלָיו. {פ}

After this short discussion of proper (and improper) avoda, Hashem tells Moshe the mishpatim that he must teach the people. This significantly longer section continues until 23:19. I will quote the first sub-section:

כא,א וְאֵלֶּה, הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים, אֲשֶׁר תָּשִׂים, לִפְנֵיהֶם. כא,ב כִּי תִקְנֶה עֶבֶד עִבְרִי, שֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים יַעֲבֹד; וּבַשְּׁבִעִת--יֵצֵא לַחָפְשִׁי, חִנָּם. כא,ג אִם-בְּגַפּוֹ יָבֹא, בְּגַפּוֹ יֵצֵא; אִם-בַּעַל אִשָּׁה הוּא, וְיָצְאָה אִשְׁתּוֹ עִמּוֹ. כא,ד אִם-אֲדֹנָיו יִתֶּן-לוֹ אִשָּׁה, וְיָלְדָה-לוֹ בָנִים אוֹ בָנוֹת--הָאִשָּׁה וִילָדֶיהָ, תִּהְיֶה לַאדֹנֶיהָ, וְהוּא, יֵצֵא בְגַפּוֹ. כא,ה וְאִם-אָמֹר יֹאמַר, הָעֶבֶד, אָהַבְתִּי אֶת-אֲדֹנִי, אֶת-אִשְׁתִּי וְאֶת-בָּנָי; לֹא אֵצֵא, חָפְשִׁי. כא,ו וְהִגִּישׁוֹ אֲדֹנָיו, אֶל-הָאֱלֹהִים, וְהִגִּישׁוֹ אֶל-הַדֶּלֶת, אוֹ אֶל-הַמְּזוּזָה; וְרָצַע אֲדֹנָיו אֶת-אָזְנוֹ בַּמַּרְצֵעַ, וַעֲבָדוֹ לְעֹלָם. {ס}

This mishpat is startling. Still ringing in the ears of b'nei yisrael is the pronouncement:

כ,ב אָנֹכִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִיךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים:

I can only imagin the shock b'nei yisrael must have felt upon hearing this mishpat. It sounds like an outright assault - b'nei yisrael have received their freedom, wandered through the desert, stood before Hashem at Sinai and now the first mishpat Moshe is told to teach them is concerned with the case of buying an eved ivri! We would at least expect to hear the more positive side of the mishpat of an eved ivri as presented in parashat b'har.

It could be that this is the mishpat that is most important for b'nei yisrael to focus on. They can not simply react against Egyptian slavery and absolutely eradicate slavery from their society. It is not by eradication of this law that the Torah revolution is brought about - it is by bringing this institution under the ol of malchut shamayim. The Egyptian rejection of ol malchut shamayim led to an absolute abuse of b'nei yisrael. The system of eved ivri is clearly not an abusive system - it most importantly recognizes the temporality of the avdut - it can not be a permanent status because 1) it would imply that he is essentially an eved to this ba'al 2) it would be a rejection of b'nei yisrael's inherent avdut to Hashem. Freedom after the 6th year strongly suggests the idea of malchuto and man's true subordination to a higher "natural" order of chochmato. I apologize for how undeveloped these thoughts are - I impatiently want to get this thought out to (hopefuly) promote some discussion.

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