Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Parshat Re'ay

The Empty-Handed Slave

The Torah has strict rules governing the Hebrew slave. Apart from not allowing to give him back-breaking work and not allowing him to wok for you for more than six years (under some circumstances the slave can ask for an extension), the Torah adds a further requirement on the master.

"When you send him forth free from you, you shall not send him forth empty-handed. You shall surely provide him from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your vat, you shall give him from what the Lord, your God, has blessed you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord, your God, redeemed you; therefore, I am commanding you this thing today" (15:13-15).

Upon freeing the slave, the master must grant him a one-off award. This sounds incredible: The master must free his slave with valuable gifts.

Why? The Torah answers: "You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord, your God, redeemed you."

What is the connection between the two?

Rashi brings a simple answer. When Israel was redeemed from servitude in Egypt, "the children of Israel did according to Moshe's instructions, and they asked from the Egyptians silver objects, golden objects, and garments. The Lord gave the people favor in the eyes of the Egyptians" (Shemot 12:35-36).

At the Exodus, god had "arranged" for the Egyptians to grant gifts to the now freed Israelite slaves.

God is therefore now saying that just as when He redeemed Israel from slavery, they did not go empty-handed, so too when someone releases a slave, the slave should not go empty-handed, they should be granted gifts.

Last year's Sedra Short on Parshat Re'ay entiled: " Doing the What Seems Right " appears at

Another Sedra Short on Parshat Ekev entiled: " The Place " appears at

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