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Lamentations: First Kinah – Line 15 Part Three

“Slaves rule over us…For we have neglected the release of (Hebrew) slaves.” TB: ‘It was taught, “For it should be good for him with you,” He must eat with you, he must drink with you. You may not eat fine bread


while he eats coarse bread. You may not drink old wine when he drinks new wine. You must not sleep on a soft bed while he sleeps on a bed of straw. Based on this they have said, “Whoever acquires a Jewish slave acquires a master for himself.”’

The laws of a Hebrew slave include far more than the laws of release. They demand kindness, generosity and sensitivity. In order for his years in servitude not to damage his soul he must be provided with a sense of accomplishment and his dignity must be restored. We not only ignored the laws of release we did not treat our slaves with the sensitivity and dignity demanded by the Torah. Therefore, we too lost our dignity and were treated without any sensitivity.  In order to fix this sin we must be highly sensitive to the dignity of others. We must work to restore dignity to those who live without it.

TB :  “Rabbi Yishmael the son of Rabbi Yochanan ben Beroka said, “From Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur the slaves did not return home, nor did they continue to work for their masters. They would sit and eat, drink and rejoice with their crowns on their heads.”

Zohar :ו “The Yoke of Heaven does not rest on one who is subjugated to another. Therefore slaves are free of the Yoke of Heaven, and are free of the commandments. When the verse says that he must leave as a free man, it refers to his freedom from the Yoke of Heaven.”

We lessen our slave’s connection to God. When we release him we allow him to rebuild his Yoke of Heaven. When we do not keep the laws of release we prevent the slave from reestablishing his relationship with God. Therefore, we were sent into exile, an existence in which it is difficult to feel the Yoke of Heaven as we did when we were in Jerusalem and lived with the Temple of God as a real presence in our lives. We wonder why it is so difficult to rebuild our relationship with God despite out observance of His commandments, our study of His Torah and our prayers. We forfeit our relationship when we prevented our slaves from having a relationship with God.

Midrash : “You are commanded not to work your slave more than six years for I created the world in six days.”

Working a slave more than six years goes against the fundamental rules of creation. Therefore, the rules of creation were suspended when we broke them ourselves and did not release our slaves after six years. We experience the broken rules of creation when we suffer beyond what seems to be to limit of human experience, such as the horrors of the exiles, the Crusades and the Holocaust.

Milan Kundera, “Immortality”: “An ally of your own gravediggers.”

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