This question is a different aspect of the previous question "why-parshas-mishpatim-begin-with-laws-of-slaves".

A man that is discharged from a prison promises to never get back. A nation that was severely enslaved for hundreds of years, I assume, would want to erase the idea of slavery from its norms, namely a free Jew being a slave of another more powerful and resourceful Jew. I would also presume they would want to eradicate that idea for all nations, being "אור לגויים" - the enlightenment for all nations.

However, the first thing that G-d says to them is that they will continue that practice - selling and buying a needy and starving fellow into human slavery.

It does not sound right to me at all.

Why G-d did not promise the Jews to end slavery once and for all and why did the Jews not revolt against such laws?

  • It's quite thoughtful to compare our concept of debt slavery with the one of the gentiles on Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt_bondage Feb 2, 2019 at 19:42
  • @Kazibácsi It says en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt_bondage#Classical_antiquity it was widespread in Greece and Rome, I couldn't see how different it is from the Torah's concept.
    – Al Berko
    Feb 2, 2019 at 21:46
  • "where the terms of the repayment are not clearly or reasonably stated, and the person who is holding the debt and thus has some control over the laborer, does not intend to ever admit that the debt has been repaid" Feb 3, 2019 at 5:59

2 Answers 2


In parshas noach, c'naan is cursed: וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אָר֣וּר כְּנָ֑עַן עֶ֥בֶד עֲבָדִ֖ים יִֽהְיֶ֥ה לְאֶחָֽיו. In a similar way to how Yaakov blessed his sons, Noach was actually directing his children towards the path in life which would yield them the greatest success in this world. He was telling C'naan that as a servant to others he would be able to reach his ultimate shleimus as a human being. Because of who he and the character traits he has, he can do the best for the world by being an eved. See Gur Aryeh, he IS a despised person, in leardership he will not allow society to develop, he will do best for everyone as a slave (including himself because he will not have the freedom to follow his desires to the point of destroying himself). This is the first instance of slavery in the torah (I think) and therefore we learn its essence here. Slavery exists in the torah because there are certain people (the torah delineates who) for whom slavery is their best chance of a successful life. And sometimes people are able to recognise this themselves and give themselves up for slavery. We have laws about how we treat a slave becuase he is a human, a human who has a different path towards a successful life. We, all of us, are slaves to Hashem. The slavery in Mitzrayim existed to teach us what it is to be a slave, how all encompassing and life consuming slavery is so that we could be ideal servants of Hashem. We never want to forget what slavery is, we never want to forget that we were slaves (and Hashem took us out) because that experience of slavery informs out lives to this day. And we also recognise that just as our slavery enables us to reach our fullest potential, so too, in certain situations for certain people, slavery is very much in place to help them realise their greatest potential.


The Torah allowed the concept of slavery but restricted its practices with the intention of teaching the wrongs within the system. The goal of the Torah was to end slavery. Other examples are the sacrifices, polygamy, and much more. Yet it allows the license to these primitive laws because the ancient Israelites lived in a time where slavery was customary.

The Rambam teaches that although G-d can change human nature, He choices not to do so. Thus G-d has to allow certain rules in the Torah that seem harsh even today. The legislation of slavery, sacrifices, and capital punishment served a better interest for the public, even though a careful reading and analysis will show that the Torah never condoned these practices. For example, the Torah’s legislation of a slave’s life made his life much easier than his contemporaries in other countries. So much so, that the rabbis later said, “he who acquires a slave secures a master over himself,” for in Hebrew the correct translation is “servant.”

Similarly, the sacrificial system was restricted and minimizing only to certain animals and the abhorrence of capital punishment made its infliction impossible. The same can be applied to stoning misbehaving children in Deuteronomy 21:18-21, not offering peace to the Canaanites in Deuteronomy 20:16-18, the laws of a condemned city in Deuteronomy 13:13-19, and the law of a captive woman and Deuteronomy 21:10-14.

For example, the law for an “eye for an eye” was always met with compensation as restricted in the Torah and Oral law in the Talmud(s). The injury was not met with physical damage in any way. The anti-Semites that use this phrase, like slavery and many others, to justify revenge which is forbidden in (Leviticus19:18) shows that these laws were never implemented.

Sources: The parashah found in Exodus 21:19 and Targum Onkelos understands that and eye for an eye is met with payment. See also Midrash Mekhilta and the Babylonian Talmud, Bava Kamma 85a. See Talmud (ibid.). Also Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (4:1) makes is abundantly clear that the law is not physical damage.

  • Thank you for your effort and welcome. What I learned on this site (the hard way) is to source my answers. So either find sources that support your reasoning or add IMHO, so it'll be clear that this your personal opinion.
    – Al Berko
    Sep 14, 2019 at 16:52
  • Your main part "The goal of the Torah was to end slavery. " seems to contradict the explicit verse "לעולם בהם תעבדו". Not only that, the Torah obligates us to wage wars on surrounding nations and [either eliminate them completely] or enslave them. This is also true about the Optional Wars when we simply can't leave other nations unaffected. Where does the idea "to end slavery" come from?
    – Al Berko
    Sep 14, 2019 at 16:55
  • Shalom @AlBerko. A careful reading of the Torah will show that the Torah never condones slavery or the eradication of woman and children of Amalek, the Canaanites, the seven nations, etc.
    – Jonathan
    Sep 14, 2019 at 16:58
  • You're saying I'm not reading the Torah carefully enough? Please elaborate on how one reads the Torah carefully. Also please address the facts I provided.
    – Al Berko
    Sep 14, 2019 at 17:00
  • No, I'm not saying that you're not reading the Torah correctly, only that a careful reading will show that the Torah does not condone slavery.
    – Jonathan
    Sep 14, 2019 at 17:16

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