web analytics
May 28, 2015 / 10 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Home » Judaism

Rabbi Lord Sacks: The Hardship Of Freedom


A Hebrew slave is to go free after six years. If the slave has grown so used to his condition that he wishes not to go free, then he is forced to undergo a stigmatizing ceremony, having his ear pierced, which thereafter remains as a visible sign of shame. Every Shabbat, slaves cannot be forced to work. All these stipulations have the effect of turning slavery from a lifelong fate into a temporary condition, and one that is perceived to be a humiliation rather than something written indelibly into the human script.

Why choose this way of doing things? Because people must freely choose to abolish slavery if they are to be free at all. It took the reign of terror after the French Revolution to show how wrong Rousseau was when he wrote in The Social Contract that if necessary people have to be forced to be free. That is a contradiction in terms, and it led, in the title of J. L. Talmon’s great book on the thinking behind the French revolution, to totalitarian democracy.

G-d can change nature, said Maimonides, but He cannot, or chooses not to, change human nature, precisely because Judaism is built on the principle of human freedom. So He could not abolish slavery overnight, but he could change our choice architecture, or in plain words, give us a Nudge, signaling that slavery is wrong but that we must be the ones to abolish it, in our own time, through our own understanding. It took a very long time indeed, and in America, not without a civil war. But it happened.

There are some issues on which G-d gives us a nudge. The rest is up to us.

Adapted from “Covenant & Conversation,” a collection of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s parshiyot hashavua essays, published by Maggid Books, an imprint of Koren Publishers Jerusalem (www.korenpub.com), in conjunction with the Orthodox Union. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth since 1991, is the author of many books of Jewish thought, most recently “The Koren Sacks Rosh HaShana Mahzor” (Koren Publishers Jerusalem).

About the Author: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth, is the author of many books of Jewish thought, most recently “The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning.”


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “Rabbi Lord Sacks: The Hardship Of Freedom”

  1. MH says:

    I’m sorry – but while Chumash certainly humanizes to a greater degree than the then ambient treatment of the slave – it does not abolish it; neither it nor similar serf like existences.

    While it is true that in America we needed to fight a civil war over slavery, and lose over 500,000 lives, let us review in a different vein:

    Approximately 3000 years ago we were given the attenuated form of slavery miSinai. In any given country in which slavery of some sort might be deemed legal, a practising orthodox Jew, in perfect concert with The Torah, can keep a slave – – especially if he is “Caanani”. 3000 years later, slavery is still legal in Torah – though attenuated.

    In the USA, while from 1650 to 1863 slavery was legal – for a little over 200 years of post Columbian history; that was now over 150 years ago. Already, One Third of Americas history has been spent under the umbrella of banned slavery. While slavery remains perfectly legal in Torah. It took us 200 years – but we learned. It has taken 3000 years, and Torah has still not learned.

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
FIFA president Sepp (Joseph) Blatter and PM Benjamin Netanayhu
Netanyahu Warns FIFA: Palestinian Threats Will Destroy International Sport
Latest Judaism Stories
Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

Why did so many of our great sages from the Rambam to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein live outside Israel?

Daf-Yomi-logo

Casting A Doubt
‘Shall We Say [They] Are Not Valid?’
(Nedarim 5a-7a)

Lessons-in-Emunah-new

I was about six years old at the time and recall that very special occasion so well.

Q-A-Klass-logo

Question: Should we wash our hands in the bathroom with soap and water, or by pouring water from a vessel with handles three times, alternating hands? I have heard it said that a vessel is used only in the morning upon awakening. What are the rules pertaining to young children? What is the protocol if no vessel is available? Additionally, may we dry our hands via an electric dryer?

Harry Koenigsberg
(Via E-Mail)

Why was Samson singled out as the only Shofet required to be a nazir from cradle to grave?

“What do you mean?” asked the secretary. “We already issued a ruling and closed the case.”

Tosafos suggests several answers as to how a minor can own an item, m’d’Oraisa.

This week’s video discusses the important connection between the Priestly Blessing and parenting.

Many of us simply don’t get the need for the Torah to list the exact same gift offering, 12 times!

There is a great debate as to whether this story actually took place or is simply a metaphor, a prophetic vision shown to Hoshea by Hashem.

Every person is presented with moments when he/she must make difficult decisions about how to proceed.

One does not necessarily share the opinions of one’s brother. One may disapprove of his actions, values, and/or beliefs. However, with brothers there is a bond of love and caring that transcends all differences.

This Shavuot let’s give G-d a gift too: Let’s make this year different by doing just 1 more mitzvah

Question: Should we wash our hands in the bathroom with soap and water, or by pouring water from a vessel with handles three times, alternating hands? I have heard it said that a vessel is used only in the morning upon awakening. What are the rules pertaining to young children? What is the protocol if […]

God and the divine origin of His Torah are facts even though we do not fully comprehend them.

More Articles from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

The desert, with its unearthly silence & emptiness, is the condition in which the Word can be heard

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

This week’s parshah inspired the Jubilee 2000 initiative leading to debt cancellation of $34 biilion

Rambam: Eating blood’s forbidden because connected to idolatry;Ramban: We’re affected by what we eat

There is something quite distinctive about the biblical approach to time.

Why should unintentional sins require atonement? What guilt exists when requisite intent is lacking?

Like Shabbat points to something beyond time, the people Israel points to something beyond history

The Sabbath is a full dress rehearsal for an ideal society that has not yet come to pass-but will

Jewish prayer is a convergence of 2 modes of biblical spirituality, exemplified by Moses and Aaron

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/the-hardship-of-freedom/2012/02/15/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: