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

We have discussed financial servitude and freedom represented by the cup of Bareich, and spiritual servitude and freedom represented by the cup of Kadeish. We now turn our attention to the Halachic aspects of moral servitude, and the freedom represented by the Cup of Hallel.


We have already explained that not all slaves may be forced by their masters to marry a shifchah. The one who sells himself, and even one sold by the court, but was sold as a bachelor may not be forced to marry the maidservant. The Ritva is the exception who holds that although neither of these may be forced to marry a shifchah, they marry one voluntarily.

The Mishneh L’Melekh, Hilchot Avadim 3:4, asks a question on the Ritva based on the Gemara, Temurah 30a (13) The gemara concludes that a relationship of a slave, who did not have a Jewish wife, with a shifchah, is compared to relations with a prostitute. Why, asks the Mishneh L’Melekh, if such a relationship is not prohibited?

The Kehillat Yaacov wants to differentiate between a maidservant owned by the master and one owned by another man. He explains that it is considered ma’us only when it isn’t done b’derekh avdut, such as with the maidservant of another man. However, I disagree, since our case is one where he, the slave, is doing it for his master, to father slaves.

I believe that the Ritva would explain that as long as he is a slave, even if he believes it is his choice, since it is his master who is making the arrangements, the choice is not his, but his masters. The mi’us is the master’s actions, not the servant’s. It is the master’s wheeling and dealing with sexual relationships that makes the animal an etnan zonah.

Ration, moral choice, is contrary to avdut. “I want” is an illusion. There is no “want”. One loses his moral choice when he becomes a slave. His choices don’t matter.

Moral freedom is the ability to make choices that matter. This is why there are so many contrasts in the seder: matchilin b’gnut, matzah lechem oni andheseibah k’ashirim, maror and tibul, …

This freedom is represented by the kos shel Hallel; “Halelu Avdei Hashem”, only the servant to God retains his “I want”, only he retains his moral freedom.

”Vailokeinu bashamaim, kol asher chafetz asa” all that He wants He does. Other gods…
“K’mohem yihyu osaihem”, people imitate their gods. Ours is a God of freedom, Who wants and desires and does, Whose choices matter. Those who choose the god of the dumb do not exercise moral freedom.

Hepu-Theo, “go after God,” said Plato in the Republic. Acharei Hashem Tailaikhu is not only normative, what we should do, it is descriptive what we are.

Ours is a God of freedom and this is why we lift up our cups in Hallel and sing.

This freedom has nothing to do with physical/psychological freedom, financial freedom, or political freedom. This stands on its own.

In his Shut Mima’amakim, Rav Oshri tells a story from the Kovno Ghetto. A man came to him and asked, “Rebbe, how can I say the blessing ‘shelo asani aved’, when I who live under Nazi domination am lower than a slave?”

Rav Oshri answered him that as long as he could choose to daven, put on tefillin, keep Shabbat etc., he was free. I ain likha ben chorin ella mi sheosaik baTorah.” 

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