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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tisa 5783

Parashat Hashavua: The Basic Law of a Persons Dignity and Freedom part IV

Harav Yosef Carmel

As we have been seeing, the Torah laws, given thousands of years ago, include some whose literal applications are no longer common, but they serve as inspiration for contemporary application of the societal sensitivities. We are now ready to discuss moral lessons learned from the laws of ama ivriya (young, female servant).

As opposed to a male Jewish servant, who can sell himself as an adult and can be sold for stealing and not reimbursing, there is only one way for a girl to become an ama ivriya – her father is unable to feed his children (possibly as a deterioration brought on by sin – see Kiddushin 20a), and so he gives his daughter to a family of means.  Even then, there are serious restrictions on her use. In return for her domestic help, the family is supposed to see to all of the girl’s physical and emotional needs, in the present and the future.

From the time of the giving of the Torah until quite recently, a single woman had almost no way of living in dignity. Therefore, out of concern for the girl, the man who “acquired” her from the destitute family must obligate himself to marry the girl or have her marry his son, when she becomes of age. It is in this light that the girl is seen and treated properly as she grows up. If they do not live up to this expectation, she automatically goes out free when she is old enough to marry, so she can do so. Then beit din, as the representative of the community, will look after her needs (if her father is still unable to do so), and make sure she is protected from abuse.

We pointed out last week that this whole situation is one we want to avoid, as it is a last-ditch step. The Torah also stresses that she is not her master’s property and can thus not be sold to someone else. In fact if he tries to do so, the Torah calls it “bigdo,” his betrayal. If they want her to be with them permanently, it is only through marriage, a full marriage with all the rights of a wife. This includes financial and emotional security, which the Torah refers to with the words sh’eir, k’sut, and ona. It is interesting that the laws of what every wife can expect from her husband are learned from what the Torah prescribes regarding an ama ivriya who turns into a wife.

“If these three things he does not do for her, she goes free without money” (Shemot 21:11). This means that if she was not married to her “master” or his son and was not “redeemed” by someone, then she goes out for free when she shows the early signs of womanhood. The Rashbam adds that beit din is responsible to ensure that this indeed happens. Rav Sa’adia Gaon derives that if she became sick while in his charge, he remains obligated to pay for her medical care even after she leaves. This is another lesson – to look out for the health and welfare of one’s workers.

So, we see that the Torah long ago led the way in protecting dignity in dealing with much more difficult social situations than we experience today.   The idea of concern for the dignity of those weaker than we is a lesson that always needs to be studied.

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Nir Rephael ben Rachel Bracha
Ori Leah bat Chaya Temima

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Kislev 14, 5783


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Iyar 10, 5771

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Tishrei 9
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Sivan 17 / Av 20


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Tishrei 20 ,5781


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Rav Carmel's father

Iyar 8 ,5776


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bat RMoshe Zev a”h.

Tamuz 10 ,5774


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Kislev 9 / Elul 5780


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Tevet 16 ,5780


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Sebbag, z"l


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Cheshvan 13, 5778


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Tamuz 23, 5777


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Iyar 18,  /5779Av 4


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Adar 28, 5781


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Av 30, 5781


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Adar II 17, 5782


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Adar II 18, 5782


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Nisan 27, 5782


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Tevet 16 5783/ Iyar 8, 5781


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Adar II 6


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Mordechai Simcha

ben Bina Stern z"l

21 Adar I, 5774

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