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Then his master shall bring him to court and shall bring him to the door and the doorpost and his master shall bore through his ear with an awl and he shall serve him forever. (Shemos 21:6)
In this week’s parsha we learn about the Jewish slave who refuses to leave his master upon the conclusion of his six year term. The Torah tells us that his master shall take him to court and bore a hole through his ear and into the door. The slave shall then continue to serve his master until the next yovel year. Why does this slave not take advantage of an opportunity for freedom? Even if he enjoys a good life serving his master certainly nothing is better than complete freedom. Obviously, the problem lies in the fact that that the slave sees no purpose for an independent life. If so, how does the boring of the hole in his ear and door and his servitude until yovel address this problem?
Rashi explains that the reason why the ear is bored is because it was present at Mount Sinai and heard Hashem say that the Jewish people are His servants and not servants of others. This person has defied Hashem by making himself a servant to another person. Therefore, it is punished by being bored. Rashi continues to explain why the door is bored. When Hashem killed the firstborn of Egypt he spared the Jewish People by passing over their doors. The doors were witnesses that Hashem chose the Jewish people as his servants. This person has defied Hashem by volunteering himself as a slave to another person. Therefore, he is bored in its presence.
It emerges from Rashi that the boring of the ear relates to the event that occurred on the Mount Sinai when Hashem gave the Jewish people the Torah and the boring through the door relates to the redemption of the Jewish people form their bondage in Egypt. These two items are brought together and bored.
When Hashem appeared to Moshe at the burning bush and persuaded him to serve as the leader for the Jewish people in their redemption from Egypt, Hashem explained that the purpose of freeing the Jewish people from bondage was to receive the Torah on Mount Sinai (Shemos 3:12). The redemption of the Jewish people was not a means to an end; it had a clear purpose. Freedom from Egypt would provide the Jewish people with an opportunity to receive the Torah and serve Hashem.
The Jewish slave of our parsha has failed to see the purpose in his redemption. His failure indicates that he also fails to see the connection between the redemption from Egypt and the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. He is punished by having a hole bored through his ear and into the door. The door symbolizes the redemption from Egypt and his ear symbolizes the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. This act of boring conveys that just as the redemption of slavery from Egypt had a purpose, namely the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, likewise his opportunity for freedom has the same purpose, to provide him with an opportunity to serve Hashem as an independent person and not as a slave. Opportunities to sanctify Hashem are certainly greater for a free man than for a slave.
The Torah requires that he continue to serve his master until Yovel. Each Yovel cycle is exactly fifty years. There were exactly fifty days between the redemption from Egypt and the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Chazal tell us that these fifty days served as a preparation period for the receiving of the Torah. This time served as a link between the two events not a break. Indeed, the Torah instructs us to count these fifty days every year with the mitzvah of Sefiras HaOmer. We may suggest that the fifty years of servitude correspond to the fifty days between the redemption and receiving of the Torah. The slave is reminded that an opportunity for freedom has a purpose. The fifty additional years of servitude remind him of the fifty days which allowed the Jewish people to prepare for the purpose of their redemption.
We may learn from the Jewish slave of our parsha that every event and opportunity in life has a purpose. If we fail to take advantage then we have failed to see the purpose. We need to be reminded of the Jewish slave whose ear is bored through the door.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5764/2004