Dvar Torah Re’eh — Masterful Behavior

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    Re’eh — Masterful Behavior
    והיה כי יאמר אליך לא אצא מעמך כי אהבך ואת ביתך כי טוב לו עמך
    In the event he will say to you, “I will not leave you,” for he loves you and your household, for it is good for him with you (Devarim 15:16).

    The Torah outlines the procedure where an eved Ivri, who is normally released after six years, opts to stay for a longer period (until yovel), because, as the Torah says, “Ki tov lo imach — For it is good for him with you.”

    The Gemara (Kiddushin 20a, 22a) explains what is meant by “imach — with you.” There needs to be equality in the standard of living between the master and servant. The master cannot eat fresher and tastier bread, drink older and more robust wine, or sleep on more comfortable bedding. But it goes farther than that! Tosafos (Kiddushin 20a, citing the Yerushalmi) says that if there is not enough good food, drink, or bedding, the slave gets the fresher and higher quality bread, the older and more robust wine, and the fluffier mattress and pillow filled with goose down. Accordingly, not only is the master treating the servant equally, but even better than he treats himself.

    Why is that the case? The word “imach” seems at most to allow for parity, where the slave receives and is entitled to whatever the master receives. How was the Gemara able to establish that one’s eved is entitled to greater creature comforts than the master himself?
    The bigger question is that another Gemara (Bava Metzia 62a) brings the ruling of Rabbi Akiva, that a person has to care for himself before caring for others, as it says in the pasuk (Vayikra 25:36), “Ve’chai achicha imach — And let your brother live with you.” The word “imach” over here implies: “Chayecha kodmim — Your life takes precedence.” (See Acharei Mos, A Tale of Two Goats.) Why does the Gemara in Kiddushin interpret the word “imach” to mean that the eved gets priority, while the Gemara in Bava Metzia interprets the same word to assign priority to oneself? (See Maharam Schiff and Toras Chaim on Bava Metzia 62a.)
    In Shemen HaTov (Vol.3), Rav Dov Zev Weinberger brings this question from Rav Elchanan Wassermann and proposes the following homiletic answer. It’s true that your life takes priority, and at most you are required to treat another as an equal, not better. But that is when there are two people of equal status. However, when dealing with a person sold as an eved, the playing field is not level. Selling oneself as an eved is a demeaning last resort for someone who could not provide for himself or his family. This strikes at the core of a person’s self-esteem. He was a failure before, and his being sold as a slave just reinforces these feelings of lowliness and worthlessness.
    Hence, the Torah tells the master to help build up the servant: Treat him better than yourself, make him feel important, give him precedence. Since we are dealing with a person who is so dishonored in his own eyes, if the master merely treats him on par with himself, that will not help overcome the servant’s shattered self-esteem; he must be treated better. The master has been given the opportunity to help rebuild another Yid. Affording him special rights will give him the leg-up he needs to restart his life.
    There is a beautiful story (recounted in Peninim al HaTorah by Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum) about the Ponovezher Rav, Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, which gives another answer.
    During the spring of 1943, groups of young orphans from Europe began arriving in Eretz Yisrael. The Batei Avos orphanage, which had been established by the Ponovezher Rav, had a problem providing proper linens and pillows for all the children. One Shabbos, just days before a large group of children was to arrive, he called for the community to come to a derashah that afternoon. He began by citing the Gemara in Kiddushin, where Chazal state, “Whoever purchases a Jewish slave purchases a master for himself.” This, Chazal say, prohibits a person from having a more comfortable lifestyle than his eved. And as mentioned above, Tosafos cites the Yerushalmi, which claims that if the master owns only one pillow, he is obligated to give it to his servant, because of the Torah’s injunction, “Ki tov lo imach — For it is good for him with you.”
    The Ponovezher Rav asked: “If the master has only one pillow, how are we able to demand that he give it to his servant? Doesn’t the Torah say, ‘Ve’chai achicha imach — And let your brother live with you,’ meaning: ‘Chayecha kodmin — Your life takes precedence’? If so, even if we were to consider the eved Ivri, a full-fledged brother, which he is, the master’s life and welfare take priority. So why must he give away his only pillow?”
    The rav explained that giving away his only pillow to his poor servant is, in fact, in keeping with “Chayecha kodmim.” The Jewish people are known by three character traits. They are: “rachmanim, bayshanim, and gomlei chasadim — compassionate, possessing a sense of shame, and people who perform acts of kindness” (Yevamos 79a). The Torah understood that if a Jew knows that his fellow does not have the comfort of a pillow upon which to rest his head, he himself will be unable to sleep easy, even if he only has one pillow: “How can I take comfort when others are without comfort?” So the Torah tells the master, “Because your life takes priority, get up and give that one pillow to your eved. Only then will you be able to sleep.”
    The rav concluded that he is sure that no one will be able to sleep comfortably at night, knowing that these poor children have nowhere to rest their heads. Of course, the kehillah responded as befitting the gomlei chasadim that we are.
    Doing for others, putting them before yourself, can serve two agendas. There are times that equality demands inequality. When I have the opportunity to save and uplift a broken person, the eved, I may have to treat him better than myself, thereby giving him a chance at a new start in life.
    There are also times that inequality and giving others more than I take for myself is, to a certain extent, for me. The Torah is teaching us a basic sensitivity that every feeling person should have, and thus, it should be impossible for me to relax if I know that someone else is suffering. Giving that one comfortable pillow to another allows him to sleep in comfort, and that knowledge allows me to sleep in comfort, as well.

    Reb Eliezer

    I don’t think the pillow is given to build the eved up but not to lower him by making the eved think that he gets the worse one because he is the eved. By providing him here, you qre makung him equal. Chayecha kodem hurts over here the other.

    Reb Eliezer

    Should be above, you are making him equal


    Eved is someone whose master controls his time. That is why the eved is not doing time-bund mitzvos.

    Everyone who is not in full control of his time is, in that part, an eved. So, be a 1099 contractor instead of a W-2 employee whenever you can. Some halochos of dealing with employees are derived from the eved. For example, an employee, seen just as a person fulfilling certain duties, should not be quitting in the middle of the project or without an advance notice. Still, if he does, the employer should let him go anyway, as forcing someone to “do time” is making him into a slave.


    Thanks, I see the message here is that a low self-esteem person would see himself disrespected even when you do everything equally. If you divide a chicken in two parts, and give him one, he might still think that you are eating a bigger and tastier part. You pay for 2 rooms in the hotel, and your slave/employee thinks that you have a luxury suite. Maybe, divide the chicken and ask him to choose the part. Let employee order the rooms for everyone himself.

    🍫Syag Lchochma

    Nice 👌

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