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The Music of Halacha-Pesach-The Four Forms of Slavery II

We discussed in The Four Forms of Slavery I the first aspect of slavery; the financial. Let us now turn to the second, religious servitude, represented by the first of the Four Cups of Wine; Kadeish: We have already explained that there are those slaves sold by bet din to pay for a theft, and there are those who sell themselves. Those sold by the court may be given a shifchah kananit by their master to father more slaves for him. Once given a slave wife, the slave may claim at the end of his term that he loves her, his master and his slave children so much that he doesn’t want to leave and go home with his Jewish wife and children. At such a time he would be taken to court and his ear would be pierced, and he would continue to serve his master until Yovail.


Tosafot Kiddushin 14b Explains that when the gemara wants to prove that a mokher et atzmo caimot become a nirtza it searches for a verse. Tosafot asks why the verse is necessary; if a mocher et atzmo may not be given a shifchah, he will be unable to say that he loves his new wife etc., thereby making it halkhacilly impossible for him to become a nirtzah even without a verse. Tosafot offers an answer of his

own. However, I would like to glance at the Ritva, Kiddushin 15a for his answer.

The Ritva explains that although the master of a mokher et atzmo may not force a shifchah on his servant, the slave may take one on his own. Thus it is possible for the one who sold himself to be married to a shifchah making it theoretically possible for him to become a nirtza if not for a pasuk.

Once we have discovered an opinion that permits an eved ivri to marry a shifchah voluntarily, let us examine the laws of a shifchah to a Jewish man.

Rashi, Kiddushin 69a says that the prohibition of a Jewish male having relations with a shifchah is a biblical prohibition, and he quotes the Targum to that effect. They both learn the isur from the verse of

“v’loh yihyeh qadesh”. The Ritva ibid. agrees that the prohibition is biblical.

The Rambam, Hilchot Isurei Biahl2:ll-13, seems to read that he holds that there is not biblical prohibition, except that he quotes the Targum’s opinion in Halakhah 13. Yet it is possible that his mention of the Targum (halakhah 13) is simply to say that the prohibition is so serious that there are those who consider it biblical in nature. We would have to read his opinion in Hilchot Avadim 3:3 “K’shar kol Yisrael” as a d’rabbanan.

What would result is that we have the Rambam who seems to hold that the issur is rabbinic, prohibiting the mokher et atzmo from ever marrying a shifchah, whereas the Ritva who holds that the prohibition is biblical, would allow the slave who sold himself to choose to marry a shifchah of his own volition!

I believe that the Ritva is making a powerfiil statement about these two slaves; the one sold by court for his sins , and the one who voluntarily sold himself into slavery. Which of the two is more reprehensible? We would think the sinner. He siimed. He had to be sold by his society.

The Ritva says no! The one who sells himself is far worse! He has shown a disdain for freedom. He

prefersservitudeoverliberty. Hehasnospiritualdignity, “lihemavadim”saysGod,”v’loavadim

lavadim” This man has shown contempt for the world of spirit. The spiritual dimension is meaningless to him.

A person who has sold himself voluntarily has demeaned himself. He has willingly embraced another master who interferes between him and God. He dishonors spiritual freedom.

The laws of the Torah that nurture spiritual dignity and honor are suspended to a degree for him, for he has rejected the mastery of God and the gift of spiritual freedom that comes with it.

“Vayaired Mitzrima”, annus alpih hadibbur” Yaacov was compelled to go down to Egypt by God’s decree. Why else would a man go down to Egypt knowing full well the prediction of God that his children would be slaves in a strange land? Yaakov was forced. He did not voluntarily accept another master.

This spiritual servitude and freedom are represented by the cup of wine we drink vvith qiddush. What is qiddush “zeikher I’tziat mitzraim”, we recall how when we left Egypt we had to rush, because , as the Shlah Haqodesh explains we had fallen to lowest level of impurity. We lacked any sanctity. With Pesach we regained the dimension of qedushah, which is an aspect of spiritual freedom.

Qiddush is also an echo of maaseh beraishit, Just as God worked and created, so too man must work and create. To work incessantly without stop is to work as a slave. It was on the Shabbat, when God rested that it says “vayiqadesh oto”

Creativity is wonderful, but it is not Qadosh. It is the cessation of work , when man can see beyond himself, when he is no longer the tool maker, homo-technoligus, that he acquires spiritual freedom and dignity.

God did not take us out of Egypt until we had broken all our bonds to Pharaoh, until we chose to have spiritual freedom, until we were willing to risk our lives for that freedom by tying the lambs in front of our homes right before the eyes of our Egyptian masters.

In order to be religiously free we must step so far from our lives that our children challenge us and say, “ma nishtana!” We must step so far back to determine where we have sacrificed our spiritual dignity and freedom by submitting ourselves to established religious patterns without thinking or caring. As we hold that first cup of wine we declare our commitment to search for spiritual freedom.

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