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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3


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EXODUS — 21:1 set

A teacher must make sure that his students understand what he teaches them. The Mechilta cited by Rashi states that this is what the Almighty told Moshe: "it should not enter into your mind to say, ' I will teach them the laws two or three times until they know them, but I won't try myself to make them understand the reasons for the laws and their explanations.' The Torah therefore states, 'Which you shall set before them,' as a set table which is ready for a person to eat from." Rabbi Yisroel Yaakov Lubchanski said that from here or we learn how we are obligated to teach others. It is not sufficient to merely repeat a lesson two or three times. Rather, a teacher must relate the ideas to the student with their complete explanation. There are several reasons why a teacher might hesitate to delve into the explanations behind the laws. He might lack the patience to explain the matter properly; or he might prefer to spend his time increasing his own knowledge and therefore does not want to spend time explaining everything thoroughly; or perhaps he might be afraid that if he tells the students everything he knows, he will no longer be considered their teacher, since they will be his equals in knowledge. But, said Rav Yisroel Yaakov, we see from G-d's command to Moshe that: 1) A teacher must acquire the patience necessary to explain matters at length. 2) Although Moshe would have been able to attain greater heights if he would have devoted all his time to his own spiritual elevation, G-d commanded him to use his precious time to explain the laws to the people. 3) A teacher must have his students' best interest in mind, rather than his own. (Ohr Hamussar, vol. 1, pp. 56-60).

EXODUS — 21:1 slave

So beloved was compassion in the eyes of the giver of the Torah that when he began to enumerate the laws that were to govern their life, with what did he begin?-"If you purchase a Hebrew slave" [this verse]. It is well known that the status of slaves in the ancient world was comparable to that of domestic animals, the ox and the donkey. They and their children were the property of the owner, who could beat and even kill them, as he pleased. The Torah begins its legislation by limiting the years of servitude of the Hebrew slave to six years. It then restricted the right of the owner to beat cruelly and to maim his Canaanite slave, so that if the slave died of the beating, the owner had to answer for it. And if the slave's eye or tooth is knocked out, he attains his freedom. The Torah also ordained that the slave must be allowed to rest on Sabbaths and festivals.

EXODUS — 21:1 them

Among the more weighty mitzvos [i.e. that the populace is not heedful of] is that of avoiding litigation in gentile courts of law (Gittin 88b), "'These are the laws that you shall present before them' [this verse] -- before them [i.e., the Jewish people,] and not before gentiles," [This follows the principle that a prohibition deduced from a positive commandment is a mitzvah asei] and sinners will stumble over them [Hoshea 14:10].

EXODUS — 21:1 them

The basis of Jewish social life being the family, Judaism has exercised a ceaseless vigil over its purity and stability. The relation between the sexes is based upon the ideal of tohorat ha'mishpachah, that is, upon chastity and purity which border on holiness. The Jew does not regard woman as his inferior but as his co--partner. The sole reason why she is exempt from certain precepts, the fulfillment of which is circumscribed by the occasion, is the fact that male and female have been cast into different physiques, making it biologically necessary for a division of labour between man and woman. It was never intended that the sphere of the home, delegated to the wisdom and tenderness of the wife and mother, should be considered as secondary to the study of the Torah or to the pursuit of a livelihood, occupations set aside for the programme of men. The Bible knows no such distinctions, for "male and female created He them" [Gen. i. 27]. When those who arranged the order (Siddur) of our daily prayers prescribed the blessing [Singer's Prayer Book, p. 6] thanking G-d "who hast not made me a woman", all they meant was, as can be seen from the context of the blessings, that the Jew is grateful to His Master for so conditioning him that he is not deprived, as a woman is by reason of her domestic responsibilities, from fulfilling such duties as Tsitsit, Tephilllin, Sukkah and similar duties which must be performed within a limited, stipulated time [Kidd.i.7; Men. 43b]. Apart from this category of commandments, known in the Talmud as "mitzvot aseh she'hazeman grama", no differentiation in our ethical codes exists between male and female. On the contrary; because the Fifth Commandment tells the child to honor her father and mother, the Lawgiver felt that he must remove the mistaken idea that the father is mentioned first because he is the more important partner in marriage by putting the mother first when he repeats the command elsewhere in the Torah. [Lev. xix. 3, "Ye shall fear every man his mother and his father". Redress could not be more noble, nor equity of the sexes more colorfully stressed. Moreover, when the Rabbis explain the verse "Now these are the ordinances which thou shalt set before them" [this verse], their comment was: "Scripture places men and women on an equality with regard to all the laws of the Torah" [B.K. 15a]. If woman is not encouraged to higher study, no qualms of conscience need assail her; her merit consists in the help she gives her menfolk to become learned in "The Word of G-d" [Ber. 17a]. Moreover, G-d endowed woman with more intuition and tact than man [Nid. 45b]. Biblical support for this statement was found in the word Vayiven ויבן [which is made a denominative from בינה "intelligence"] used when a woman was created from the rib of man. G-d used special intelligence (binah) before coming to the decision that the best material from which to shape woman was the rib, for that is that part of the body which was always covered [Gen R. xviii.2.].

EXODUS — 21:2 free

The legal and moral distinction between Israelites and others is also made in the case of slaves. The term of service of a Hebrew slave is limited to six years, and he is manumitted in the seventh (Exodus 21:2, Deuteronomy 15:12). This restriction of slavery is surely based on Israel's own experience of harsh servitude in Egypt. Leviticus 25:39-42 goes further and effectively abolishes slavery for the Israelite; his status is rather as "a hired or bound labor" who sells his capacity for labor, but not as person, and he is manumitted in the fiftieth year of a fixed cycle, the Jubilee year. (Continued at Leviticus 25:45 property OXFORD 47)

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