Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tvunah: Slavery in the Torah

An interesting question and answer from HaRav Asher Weiss shlita via his interesting new project Tvunah:

Shalom Aleichem,

From a comparative standpoint the laws of the Torah regarding slavery (both those explicitly in the Torah sh’bichtav and those in the Torah shebaal peh) are superior to those of the other nations of the day and even those practiced in the United States less than two hundred years ago. Indeed the value placed on freedom in the Torah helped influence the modern world to prohibit the practice.

Nevertheless while I can understand why the Torah may not prohibit the practice outright (since we see from the Navi even the halachos that were given were not observed and ‘one who grasps too much grabs nothing’) yet I find it very difficult to understand why the Torah allows someone to own another person as personal property the way one would own a kli or a behamah (כי כספו הוא)?

Furthermore I find it difficult to understand why the emancipation of slaves (עבד כנעני) is prohibited, even if there are a variety of leniencies in this regard.

These ideas seem to be very difficult to reconcile with דעלך סני לחברך לא תעביד ? Does the Rav have any thoughts that can help me understand these issues?

The answer can be found here.