Hadrash Ve-Haiyun
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by Efraim Levine

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HaGoan R' Aaron Levine zt"l
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Hadrash Ve-Haiyan


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Then his master shall bring him to the judges and shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost and his master shall bore through his ear with an awl and he shall serve him forever. (Shemos 21:6)

Rashi here concludes that the Jewish slave’s ear must be bored only on the door and not on the doorpost. The posuk’s mention of the doorpost was only for halachik exposition purposes. Rashi continues to quote the Midrash that explains why precisely the door and doorpost are mentioned. “Rebbi Shimon expounded this posuk like a pearl. What makes a door and doorpost unique among all the furnishing of the house that they should be singled out in this commandment? Hashem said, the door and the doorpost that were witnesses in Egypt when I skipped over the lintel and the two doorpost that were sprinkled with the blood of the karbon pesach and heard that I said “The children of Yisroel are my servants,” implying that are my servants and not servants to servants, yet despite this, this individual went and acquired a different master for himself, it is fitting that his ear should be bored in their presence.”

Perhaps we may suggest an additional homiletic explanation as to why specifically the door is used.

First, as the title of this parsha indicates, most of the laws of this sidrah were taught to the newly ordained judges of the Jewish people. As a matter of fact, the laws of the Jewish slaves were the very first of these laws. Second, it is noteworthy that the word “door” has only appeared previously in the Torah in one other context, that being the story of how Lot protected the angles when they came to save him from the destruction of Sedom. Third, from the fact that we are here discussing the laws that are given to the judges it is interesting to note that Lot was the first official judge recorded in the Torah. This is seen from the posuk “and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom” (Bereishis 19:1). Rashi Comments that the word “sat” in the context of this posuk conveys that on that very day the people of Sodm appointed him as a judge over them. This is again clearly illustrated a few posukim later when the posuk records the reaction of the Sedomites to Lot’s behavior when they declared “this one has originally come to sojourn and now he judges over us!”

(Bereishis 19:9).

We may now make the following observation. The posukim record that when the angels came to visit Lot he quickly took them into his home. Later, a group of people gathered outside demanding that the guests be handed over for the purposes of sin. The posuk records that Lot went outside and “shut the door after him” in order to protect them. The evil people tried to break the door but were unsuccessful. We see that Lot, the first recorded official judge used “the door” as an instrument to protect his innocent guest.

Generally, a Jewish slave is given great privileges. The posuk says “it must be good for him with you.” Chazal derive from this posuk that in given circumstances a Jewish slave must be treated even better then the master. Chazal go so far as to say that whoever acquires a Jewish slave for himself has in reality acquired a master for himself. Certainly it is expected that the Judges ensure proper treatment for the Jewish slave. A most basic duty of a judge is to assist the oppressed. A slave is vulnerable and requires special attention. However, when a Jewish slave chooses not to leave his master upon the conclusion of his term the Torah considers this to be a very grave sin. Here the judges are not allowed to show any compassion whatsoever. As a symbol of the harsh treatment that the slave deserves the judges are instructed to bore a hole through his ear on the door. The door has great symbolic meaning for the judges for it was the instrument that Lot, first Judge recorded in the Torah, used to defend and protect his innocent guests. Here, however, due to the severity of the sin even this instrument is used to inflict punishment.


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Efraim Levine 5761/2001