22 Cheshvan 5782 / Thursday, October 28, 2021 | Torah Reading: Chayei Sarah
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HomeFoundations of JudaismHoliness for Men and WomenFree - or a Slave?
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Free - or a Slave?    

Free - or a Slave?

We have two options – to serve our desires - or serve Hashem. One brings us into the depths of slavery; the other, to true freedom which defies any physical conditions…


In the Torah portion of Mishpatim, we read about the Jewish slave, who chooses to remain a slave even though by law, he is supposed to be freed during the Shmittah year – the 7th year of the crop cycle. How could a person willingly give up his person freedom, just to stay with his slave wife and not have the burdens of normal life on his shoulders? The truth is that you and I are faced with this same choice every day – and many people actively choose to the slave life! Let’s explain… 


Two Holy Covenants 

In order to understand the depths of the issue, first you must know that there are two holy covenants: the covenant of marriage, and the covenant with Hashem. These two covenants work together, and each influences the other. 


Marriage is called a “marriage covenant.” When a marriage is run with holiness and purity according to Jewish law and the laws of family purity, then “Hashem’s presence is between them” – which strengthens each person’s connection to Hashem. Hence, both covenants are simultaneously upheld. 


However, if G-d forbid the marriage is not run properly and there is a breakdown in the covenant between man and wife, then Hashem’s presence leaves. The behavior which damaged the marriage covenant, also damages the covenant between the individuals and G-d in critical ways. Hence, both covenants are simultaneously corrupted. 


You Don’t Even Realize that You are a Slave 

How did a Jewish slave become a slave? He sinned in such a way that he lost his freedom, and now he is married to a slave wife. This connection is not the holy and correct marriage covenant that Hashem wants. This is supposed to be a hint to him that he damaged his covenant with Hashem, and thus the covenant of marriage has been withheld from him. Now, becoming a slave is supposed to wake him up, to come to grips with his mistakes, do a serious accounting of his life, and desire and work to change himself, in order to come back into a free life changed for the better. 


However, in the case where he decides to remain a slave, instead of doing this important work – either he gave up on fixing himself and living an upright life, or he became so accustomed to this corrupted relationship, that he doesn’t even want to leave it! 


This is exactly what happens to people who become a slave to their lusts and desires. They don’t even realize that they are exchanging their personal, emotional and spiritual freedom for false and fleeting pleasures and counterfeit love. Many times, they don’t even feel the depth to which they are slaves.  


Specifically, it is in this place that they must make their choice: To continue to cling to their lust and thus choose to become an “eternal slave” – or to aspire to leave all of his lusts, and return to freedom. This involves disconnected from all connections to the side of impurity and things that arouse lust. Once this happens, the person then naturally reconnects to the side of holiness and Hashem, and strengthens his covenant with G-d.  


Sell Yourself – Buy Debts! 

You have a covenant to G-d, and a covenant to be faithful to your spouse, whether or not you have already found that spouse. You have life! You have goals, aspirations and purpose! When you sell yourself to bodily lusts and desires, you let go of all of this good life, and receive only imaginations and empty dreams in return! 


This is why Rebbe Nachman explains that the punishment for damaging the holy covenant between man and G-d is debt. This is because a debtor is called a slave. Someone in debt has no day and no night, and no respite from the constant struggle to get more money in order to pay off his debts. He has no ability to run a normal life, and some even fall into the depths of depression and despair, and don’t even want to continue to live in the simplest sense. 


Hence, the solution for debt is simple: Guarding the holy covenant with G-d. And as long as that covenant is not being upheld, no physical “solutions” will help, because the spiritual cause of the debt has not been corrected! 


I know tens of stories of people who were hopelessly in debt, but they started praying every day to guard their eyes and their minds, and started guarding their eyes in practice as well, and the women strengthened themselves in modest dress and behavior. Baruch Hashem, Hashem sent them miracles above nature, and they paid off the debts that previously seemed impossible to ever pay off in their lifetimes. Once they got onto the path of holiness and guarding the covenant with G-d, then there was no longer a spiritual reason to remain slaves, and they became free! 


The Purpose of the Torah 

The very first commandment after the giving of the Torah is the commandment regarding a Jewish slave, because this commandment continues the purpose of the Torah: Hashem gave us the Torah in order to free us from the chains of the body and the lusts of this world. There is no one who is truly free, except the person who upholds and learns the Torah!  


The Torah does this by making us holy. The Torah gives us the ability to exchange the jail of bodily lusts for a holy covenant with G-d – a covenant which positively influences every aspect of our lives – including finding our spouse, living with them in peace, and providing us with good income. Even more importantly, this covenant enables us to experience true joy and pleasure in our lives, and true love – like the Garden of Eden already in this world.  


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  So helpful and insightful!!
Ahuva3/5/2020 9:59:00 PM

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