Slave of a Slave by Ari Teman


Parshat Behar is a digest of the laws of Shmittah and Yovel.  However, it also teaches a lesson in compassion and humility.  The Torah says, "You shall sanctify the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom throughout the land for all its inhabitants" (25:10).  This sentence sounds simple; all slaves and servants are freed.  But why does it say "for all its inhabitants?”  Are the masters and owners in need of redemption too?

Rabbi Mordechai Kaminetzky says yes, the owners are in need of redemption.  A Jewish employer may not force his Jewish slaves to work under harsh conditions, as the Torah says, "If your brother becomes impoverished with you and is sold to you, you shall not work him with slave labor" (25:39).  The Torah understands that keeping an employee happy is not an easy task.  In fact, the Gemara (Kiddushin 15a) says, "One who buys himself a slave buys himself a master."  Therefore, when the employee leaves, the employer is relieved of that job and is freed as well.

Furthermore, Seforno discusses a Jew who has sold himself to a non‑Jew to pay off his debts.  When discussing this, why does the Torah say, "After he has been sold, he shall have redemption; one of his brothers shall redeem him?"  If the Torah discussed redeeming a fellow Jew a few Pesukim earlier, why does it state this commandment again?  The Seforno answers that Jews may be quick to judge one who has sold himself to a non‑Jew.  Hashem is telling us again that all Jews are equal in His eyes and we must not think that we are more worthy than our compatriots.  It is for this reason that in the fiftieth year everything is returned to its original owner and work stops during that year.  It is a time to realize that Hashem is the sole Owner and Master of the world.

Why Shmittah? By Rabbi Mark Smilowitz

מה ענין שמיטה אצל הר סיני? by Avi Marcus