Who’s Who? by Chanan Strassman

(2003/5763)

There are many laws to which a Jew must adhere concerning Yovel, the Jubilee Year.  We must refrain from working the land, free our slaves, and restore any purchased properties to the original owner.  However, the Torah is not very clear when it mentions the law concerning a slave's freedom.  In Perek 25, Pasuk 10 of Parshat Behar, the Torah says, “and proclaim freedom throughout the land for all its inhabitants.”  Here, the Torah does not specify the slaves.  By saying “for all its inhabitants,” is the Torah implying that there are people other than slaves who become free when Yovel arrives? 

Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin offers an answer by quoting a famous statement made by Chazal.  Chazal said: “Whoever acquires a Jewish slave, it is as if he has acquired a master over himself” (Kiddushin 20).  What could Chazal have meant when they said this?  The Torah states in Devarim 15:16, “It is good for him [the slave] with you” meaning that he is treated well, even as an equal, throughout the time he is subservient to you.  Therefore, if there is only one pillow in your entire house, the slave gets to use it.  If there is only enough food for one person, the slave gets to eat.  So we see that, in some ways, the servant is higher than his master.

Therefore, when the Torah says "for all its inhabitants,” we see that it does not just refer to the slave, but that it also refers to the master, who to a certain extent, must treat his slave as if the slave were a master over him.  Now that the slave is freed, the master is freed from his “ enslavement” as an owner of slaves.  That is why the Torah mentions “all its inhabitants.”

 

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