February 14th, 2010


Shlomo Uzhansky Gut Shabbes!

In this weeks’ Parsha, we learn a great lesson in Chinuch- education. The Parsha starts with the laws of a “Jewish bondsman”. A Jewish man could be sold as a slave when he is caught stealing and is sold by Beit Din, the Jewish Court. “ If you buy a Jewish Bondsman he shall work for 6 years and in the seventh year he shall go free.” The Torah teaches us how to deal with a thief who can’t afford to pay for that which he stole. He must be sold as a slave for 6 years. Doesn’t this seem cruel, to sell a person as a slave? Under the American judicial system someone who steals is punished with sitting in prison. Doesn’t it seem that thieves belong in jail and not in someone else’s house?
Why does the Torah mandate that the thief should become a slave? The Torah teaches us to sell him to go for a six year “therapy”. The Talmud in Kidushin discusses the laws of how a master must treat his slaves. “When the master eats or drinks, the slave eats or drinks”. One must treat his slave with equal right if not better. When one finds a suit in the store, he must remember to buy two-one for himself and another for his slave. And if he only bought one suit the master must give it to his slave! Imagine Chanukah is coming and you only have one fancy silver menorah. Who will be the one to light it? The slave. Shabbos is coming; the master and slave go to shul together and the slave is wearing a fancy new suit while the owner is wearing his old torn suit.
The Torah teaches the masters obligation to show extra sensitivities for the slave. In a sense the Torah has therapy for someone, who did not act as a responsible human being supporting himself, but rather steals from others. Six years of motivation and constant praise in order for him to feel part of society. Imagine the type of master that would buy such a slave! He must be such a true Tzadik, for it seems that his duties towards his slave our greater than the benefit he has. Such a compassionate person someone whose entire life is filled with kindness is the greatest role model for him. When teaching someone a lesson that will make him change, we must first build him up, instill him with confidence and make him feel like an honorable member in society. After six years of this kind of therapy, he understands that he is way above the low class who steal.
Today in America, statistics show that 70% of those incarcerated from crimes like theft, will return to prison as repeat offenders within 3 years. Sitting in jail does not help a thief change his low self-image. After returning from prison, living a degrading life for a number of years, his self-respect has not increased. The Torah understands the method of teaching a thief how to change his bad ways.
Although nowadays slavery is not an option we must utilize this message when helping others grow. The first lesson that we can learn is that to help someone change his bad lifestyle it must be through constant encouragement and building self-esteem. He must be shown the advantages of living with fine character . After he sincerely feels comfortable with himself, he realizes that as a healthy human being his behavior was not moral.
But the Torah teaches us one more lesson in education “But if the Bondsman shall say, “I love my master etc. I shall not go free”; then his master shall bring him to the doorstep and he shall bore through his ear with the awl” Shemos 21:5/6. If, after six years of therapy, the slave decides he doesn’t want to leave, the master gives him a “spanking” in his ear. The Talmud explains “For he who has heard at mount Sinai, that the Jewish people are my servants, and this thief wants to be a servant to my servants”.
A slave is someone is free from all worries, because his master takes care of him. He has responsibilities for the master, but if he follows orders than he is set. This slave was given a chance to finally become a respectable and responsible asset to society and he refuses! He would rather not worry about his duties in life.

The Torah is teaching us that after six years of therapy, of teaching him how to become an asset to society, and the greatness of mankind, IF he still refuses to accept, that’s when action must be taken. The first level in education is to give the person a chance for success by making realize his magnificent potential. After long efforts and he still doesn’t allow himself to become a responsible human being, only than you must take action.


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