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Shabbat Parashat R'ei | 5770

Parashat Hashavuah: Also for Your Maid-Servant Could it Be?

Harav Yosef Carmel

The Torah, after teaching the law of a Jewish servant who wants to stay on after the six-year stint and needs his ear pierced, says: “… and also for your maid-servant (amah)shall you do so” (Devarim 15:16-17). This is hard to take at face value, for the Torah speaks in several contexts against the overuse of the institution of a Jewish maid-servant. Don’t we remember what Pirkei Avot (2:7) teaches, that one who increases the number of maid-servants increases promiscuity and that Hashem reacts particularly negatively to promiscuity (Sanhedrin 106a)? In truth, the laws of the Jewish amah transmit the message that the Torah tried to limit the practice as much as possible and worked to keep abuses in check. We will mention some of these laws:
1. A father is not allowed to sell his daughter as an amah unless he is totally out of resources. If in the meantime, he acquires resources, he is to redeem her right away.
2. Her sale cannot be done or last beyond the time she is old enough to marry.
3. She goes free after six years or when the yovel comes, whichever is earlier.
4. The owner may not sell her to anyone (if he does, she goes free). She is acquired by inheritance by his descendants.
5. There is a mitzva for the owner to take her as a wife for him or his son, which can only be done with her acquiescence.
6. One who cannot take her as a wife cannot take her as an amah.
7. One cannot take two such women as wives.
8. If she is taken as a wife, the former amah receives the status and privileges of a normal wife.
Therefore, the pasuk we began with cannot be understood according to the simple meaning. Rather, the gemara in Kiddushin explains, it refers to the previous concept of a slave receiving parting gifts upon being freed, that the maid-servant is also entitled to such gifts. Interestingly, this is the model for the modern Jewish practice of severance pay. In any case, the whole institution of the Jewish amah is just to save the daughter of a destitute family from hunger. This is a better option than what we hear in the media about Jewish girls “selling their bodies” in other ways for a falafel to avoid hunger. It is the responsibility of the State of Israel to find more proper alternatives, as we are not going back to that of amah, which no longer exists in our time. We hope that the Chief Rabbinate will be at the forefront of the struggle to save the children of destitute families.
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Dedication

Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in memory of
Rav Yehuda Amital zt”l,
RoshYeshivat Har Etzion
 
Hemdat Yamim
of this week is dedicated in memory of
Gital Gila
Bat Eliyahu Micha-el  a”h
on the occasion of her yahrzeit, Av 21st
 
Hemdat Yamim of this week is dedicated
 in memory of
Yitzchak Eizik Ben Yehuda Leib Usdan, a"h,
whose Yahrtzeit is 
the 29th of Av

This week’s Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
R' Meir ben
Yechezkel
Shraga
Brachfeld

Hemdat Yamim is endowed by
Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker and
Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.
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