Volume 29 Number 57
                 Produced: Wed Aug 18  6:29:26 US/Eastern 1999

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Avi Feldblum]
Morality of Slavery (5)
         [Warren Burstein, Ken G. Miller, Joseph Geretz, Zvi Weiss,
Richard Wolpoe]
Morality of Slavery (pop culture morality)
         [Joseph Geretz]
Polygamy vs Slavery--A difference for supporting one vs the other
         [Russell Hendel]


From: Avi Feldblum <mljewish@...>
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 1999 06:18:24 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Administrivia


You may notice that email from the list appears to be coming from mhpower
rather than mljewish. There is some glitch in the system we are trying to
identify. It is also the reason that we did not get any issues for a few
days, I was sending it out, but it never got received. A combination of my
wife's remark that she had not seen an issue for a few days and my not
getting the volume of bounced messages alerted me to the problem. 

Avi Feldblum
mail-jewish Moderator


From: Warren Burstein <warren@...>
Date: Thu, 12 Aug 1999 14:58:23
Subject: Re: Morality of Slavery

>From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
>Actually I argue that their status is like that of
>children (You can hit children for discipline, but
>the children have rights, can sue in courts and can own things).

The eved cnaani never "grows up".

Hitting children for discipline is another thing that "pop culture" has
a problem with.  However, if one went beyond a spanking to a beating
(with or without "such objects as are normally used for discipline"), I
think that even those untainted by modern ideas would object.

>The Rambam explicitly limits the owners right to "hit slaves" to such
>objects as are normally used for discipline (Murder 2:14)

This alone is sufficient reason to say "shelo asani eved" with great
concentration, but not to hope that one day we will once again be on the
master's end of the object.

While I agree that the master was not permitted to cause unnecessary
pain, It was permitted to cause just as much as required to get the
slave to work.  On the other hand, if one has a dispute with a free
person an eved ivri, one is not allowed to cause any pain whatsoever
(unless it's in self-defense).

>* The Rambam explicitly states that ALL JEWS (not just the courts) are
>OBLIGATED to help Canaanite slaves live. Furthermore the owner only has
>permission to tell the slave "Work for me but you earn for your food
>separately" when "there is a market for his work". But in a year of famine
>the owner has no such permission. The slave may even have the right during
>famine years to say "Either feed me or free me" (See Rambam, Slaves 9:7,
>See Gitin 12 and see the discussions in the SA and Kesef Mishnah).

Why should the master get any work at all out of a slave who he doesn't
feed?  Other than that the master can beat him if he doesn't work, that

And the obligation to help the Canaanite slave live is the same as
tzedaka - the people are obligated, but the slave has no more recourse
than a poor person who doesn't manage to collect sufficient donations
for his needs.  Slaves 9:7 makes it clear that the slave goes from door
to door begging, he isn't entitled to an allowance from the Ministry of
Slavery and Welfare.

From: Ken G. Miller <kgmiller@...>
Date: Thu, 12 Aug 1999 17:28:03 -0400
Subject: re: Morality of Slavery

Several issues back I wrote that <<< the *attitude* expressed here by
the Chofetz Chaim, that one Ben Adam can be the *property* of another
Ben Adam, ... is extraordinarily repugnant to the "pop culture morality"
of today >>>

Jay Schacter responded in MJ 29:47 with several comparisons to United
States law, such as assault on a sailor constituting destruction of
government property, and how mandatory military conscription is a clear
example of involuntary servitude.

My guess is that most people would consider the military law that <<< a
soldier who goes to the beach on his day off and gets sunburned can be
found guilty of "destroying government property" >>> to be either a
remnant of the the US *did* condone slavery, or they'd consider it to be
a silly lawyerly attempt to forbid something which did not easily fall
into any already-forbidden category.

Similarly, most people are either anti-draft, or they would consider
national defense to be important enought that it would justify <<<
military conscription [which is] undeniably a form of involuntary
servitude >>>. A similar argument might be made about a child who does
chores for his parents.

I still maintain that most people nowadays would consider the idea that
one human could be the personal property of another human, to be very
offensive, barring unusual circumstances, such as the need for soldiers
to defend the country, and the need to parents to educate their

Mr. Shachter writes further: <<< I am not intimately familiar with the
"pop culture" of ancient Israel.  We have a more complete record of the
laws of ancient Israel than of its "pop culture".  It appears that
slavery, despite its legality, never developed there to any significant
degree, and it could very well be that the "pop culture" of Israel found
slavery every bit as repugnant as does the "pop culture" of the United
States by which the author of the above excerpt claims to have been
brainwashed. >>>

Yes, that is possible. And indeed, we do have a more complete record of
their laws than their culture. But there are ways to find hints about
the culture. Compare slavery to polygamy, for example. It is simple to
find that comparitively few men had more than one wife, and in fact,
Rabbenu Gershom did eventually forbid the practice. In contrast, while
the rabbis always spoke about how well a slave must be treated, in my
limited learning I do not recall anyone ever recommending that a person
have no slaves at all. The reverse is true, in that there are
prohibitions against freeing one's slave!

I hope that I am wrong, and that there are places where Chazal speak
about how each Tzelem Elokim is equal to each other, and should not be
the *property* of another. I look forward to seeing them inside.

Akiva Miller

From: Joseph Geretz <jgeretz@...>
Date: Fri, 13 Aug 1999 00:37:28 -0400
Subject: Morality of Slavery

I once heard the institution of Halachic slavery explained in the
following manner. Many years ago, before Niskatnu HaDoros (generational
diminishment) when people were able to ascend to high spiritual levels,
it would be perfectly appropriate for a person on a high spiritual level
to 'own' a person on a lower spiritual level. This would be a benevolent
arrangement which would benefit the slave as well as the master, much in
the way that a child benefits from the dominant role which his parents
have over him. Just as no one should question the benefits of the
Parent-Child relationship as being somehow immoral, no one should
question the Master-Slave relationship in this context as being immoral.

Nowadays however, where most people do not ascend to these spiritual
heights, it would be inappropriate for one person to 'own' another

(Although you might be able to see vestiges of the original Master-Slave
relationship in a Rebbe-Talmid relationship where you sometimes find
such respect and reverence on the part of the Talmid that they would do
literally anything for the sake of their Rebbe.)

It is quite possible though, after Mashiach arrives, speedily G-d
willing, we will revert to our original spiritual capabilities and the
institution of Halachic slavery might very well be reinstated.

Kol Tuv,

Joseph Geretz

From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Sun, 15 Aug 1999 13:23:40 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Morality of Slavery

> From: Akiva Miller <kgmiller@...>
> I am not necessarily saying that I feel slavery is wrong. I am saying
> that American culture has brainwashed me into *thinking* that it is
> wrong, and has done such a good job of this brainwashing, that I am
> unable to imagine how morality could be otherwise. And that is basically
> a restatement of the question of this entire thread: Is there a morality
> distinct of halacha or not?

 The key is in the Final Paragraph.  "American Culture" has a different
"standard" and therefore, Akiva Miller is unable to come to terms with
the fact that an EVED K'NAANI is "owned" (like property).  Perhaps, I
can INCREASE his discomfort by pointing out that the Gemara states that
the WIFE of a Kohen (who is not a Bas Kohen) may eat Teruma (which is
normally prohibited to non-Kohanim on pain of death!) because she is the
PROPERTY of the Kohen ("Kinyan Kaspo", I believe is the term used..).
Does this mean that we should nullify Kiddushin because the Gemara
states that as a result of Kiddushin, the wife is the Husband's
property?  The point is that the concepts of the Torah are DIFFERENT
from the concepts of "American Culture".  An Eved is -- indeed --
"Kanui" to the Master (even an Eved Ivri may be [partially] considered
that way which is why the Master can "force" the Eved to father "little
avadim" from the local "Shifcha Kna'anis")...  However, that is NOT to
be understood in the sense that "American Culture" understands it -- as
one human being "lording over" another...  Thus, the example cited
[Slavery] seems to me to be an invalid example of trying to figure out
whether there is a "higher morality" -- esp. because the Torah states
that in regard to Eved Kanaani -- there is a specific imperative of
"L'olam Bahem Ta'avodu" -- i.e., if you HAVE an eved Knaani, you are
expected NOT to ever free the Eved...  And, I cannot comprehend a
"higher morality" that would CONTRADICT the Torah...


From: Richard Wolpoe <richard_wolpoe@...>
Date: Fri, 13 Aug 1999 14:37:38 -0400
Subject: Morality of Slavery

From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...> Date: Sun, 18 Jul 1999 19:21:20 
> But our way of doing it is different. The criminal becomes apprenticed
> to a single Jew who acts as his mentor and social worker. This person
> has total rights over the criminal (monetary, sexual etc). In the ideal
> world the Jew uses these rights to show the criminal how to do a descent
> days work and treat people nicely. The result: when he "earns back what
> he stole" he is a transformed person and goes free.
> True in our present world no one individual should be trusted with such a 
> responsibility (which is why there is no slavery today). But when the Mesiah 
> comes the slavery method will be preferable to the prison method.

I think that this is not the term slavery in its common Americana usage,
and would actually be more akin to the term "indendentured servant".
And indeed, that case could be a far more enlightened punishment or
rehabilitation than would incarecration in a prison.

Part of this type of indenture servitude is to provide funds for
compensating the victim of a crime. That feature is arguable more humane
and more equtiablethan is the current form of justice.

Perhaps it would be better to compare this form of servitute with
incarceration in a penitentiary rather than with any form of slavery.

Rich Wolpoe

From: Joseph Geretz <jgeretz@...>
Date: Fri, 13 Aug 1999 00:53:18 -0400
Subject: Morality of Slavery (pop culture morality)

From: Israel Rubin
> Someone rhetorically asked (#11) "How would you evaluate the morality of
> monogamy?  Is that another example of "pop culture morality"?". Answer -
> yes.

From: Barry Best
> I think that it was I who asked about monogomy, and it was not
> just a rhetorical question.  Apparently, Rabbenu Gershom bought into the
> "pop culture morality" of his time to the extent that he banned polygomy
> for Ashkenazic Jews.

A well known saying states that every Takana (improvement) enacted for a
generation is enacted because of the *deficiency* of the generation,
rather than stemming from the piety of the generation.

In order to properly evaluate the Cherem (ban) of Rabbeinu Gershom we
need to examine its roots. I suspect it was not enacted out of a
heightened sense of 'pop-morality', but rather it was enacted because
attitudes toward marriage and relationships were changing to the point
where it was warranted. In other words, if you have a society which
approaches marriage with an attitude of purity and sanctity with the
intention of creating another generation of G-d fearing Jews, well then
polygamy is perfectly appropriate. However, for a generation which is
becoming sidetracked by the sensual pleasures of marriage, it is
appropriate to place limitations and boundaries to prevent the situation
from getting out of hand.

If this is in fact the case, then it is perfectly reasonable to assume
that with the coming of Mashiach, speedily G-d willing, we might once
again attain the level of spiritual purity for which polygamy would be
perfectly appropriate and the Cherem would be repealed.

Kol Tuv,

Yossi Geretz


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 15 Aug 1999 23:06:11 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Polygamy vs Slavery--A difference for supporting one vs the other

My congratulations to Barry Best for an excellent question on a hackneyed
topic: For Barry's question (v29n49) undermines the implicit assumption
of those defending slavery by pointing out that there are precedents for
undoing Biblical permissions, such as the banning of polygamy. What then
is the difference between Polygamy and (voluntary) slavery

I actually learned the answer to this from my high school Tenach teacher,
Rabbi Amnon Haramati. Rabbi Haramati pointed out that WITHOUT EXCEPTION
every polygamous marriage in Tenach had strife due to the polygamy (eg
Sarah and Hagar, Rachael and Leah, Chana and Peninah). Therefore we
can encourage its prohibition.

But we can only encourage the prohibition of slavery if NO good ever
comes out of it. A person who is totally bankrupt is allowed to indenture
himself to someone for a period till he earns enough money to stand on his
own feet. Is it clear that this is inferior to begging on the streets?

A person who is so poor that he cannot afford clothing is allowed to sell
his daughter to be brought up with another family (and possibly marry the
person's son). Do we really have an alternative solution to poverty? Until
we do, we cannot recommend cessation of poverty. True slavery is horrible..
but I submit it is the poverty that it combats that is horrible.

And let us not forget...however great King Mesiah is he will eliminate
evil but he will not eliminate poverty (Dt 15:11). Finally let me conclude
with the chilling Rashi on Job 36:21---"all of Jobs sufferings do not
compare to the ultimate suffering--poverty!" Therefore taking Barry's
question as an impetus maybe we should change the thread from a discussion
of slavery to a discussion of how Judaism deals with poverty when charity

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA; <RHendel@...>;
ModeratoR Rashi-Is-Simple


End of Volume 29 Issue 57