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{Originally posted to Rabbi Weinberg’ website, The Foundation Stone}

Fifty years later, my sister still carries the scars of a business transaction. Our family was driving from Toronto to Baltimore, and desperate to buy a soda and candy, I offered to sell my sister to a woman who joined us for the trip. My sister claims I asked only for a dime, and has yet to recover from what she considers the insulting price, ignoring my insistence that I asked for fifteen cents.

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If my sister, smart, accomplished, mature and confident, still suffers from my long ago innocent transaction, how will the young girl in this portion, “If a man will sell his daughter (Exodus 21:7),” ever recover from being sold by her father?

It is this emotionally devastated child who provides the context for the laws of marriage, primarily a husband’s obligation to his wife. Her master purchases the maid as a potential wife, and, “If he shall take another (wife) in addition to her, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital relationship (Verse 10).”

I read this section as describing how marriage should heal emotional wounds. The girl who lacked the most basic necessity, her father’s nurturance, once married, has, “her food, her clothing, her marital relationship.” Marriage should give her a sense of what is hers. As with so many marriages, her relationship with her husband should heal the pains of her past.

It isn’t coincidental that the portion that concludes with the final stages of the Revelation at Sinai, Midrashically compared to a marriage between God and Israel, begins by teaching us the role of a healthy relationship healing old wounds. Israel, albeit redeemed, still carried the wounds of slavery. The Torah inserts the marriage laws in the middle of Revelation to inform Israel that God will heal their scars. God is feeding Manna to them, providing water and shelter. He is nurturing them as they have never before experienced, and now tells them that He will use the relationship formed at Sinai to heal them.

“You shall not cause pain to a widow or orphan. If you dare to cause pain, he will cry out to Me, I shall surely hear his outcry (22:22).” God, Whom they believed ignored their cries in Egypt, promises to hear the cries of the weak. God is making amends.

“If you take your fellow’s garment as security, until sunset shall you return it to him. It alone is his clothing. In what shall he lie down? If he cries out to Me, I shall listen, for I am compassionate (Verses 25-26).” God is making amends.

“He shall bless your bread and your water, and I shall remove illness from your midst (Verse 25).” God is making amends. God is healing their wounds. God is nurturing them. He is doing this as part of Revelation. God wants Israel to experience the relationship of the covenant, the love and healing of a marriage, before the final stages of Revelation.

When we teach Torah as laws without relationship, we erase the main message of Revelation. When we teach Torah as demands, without the nurturance and healing, we are actively breaking the covenant of Sinai.

Torah is to be taught as healing, as a relationship, as nurturing. It is this Torah I love and that gives me life.

Shabbat Shalom

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Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg, is founder and President of the leading Torah website, The Foundation Stone. Rav Simcha is an internationally known teacher of Torah and has etablished yeshivot on several continents.