Dvar Torah for Parshas Behar 5784

Shalom U’bracha,

As we delve into Parshas Behar, we are introduced to the mitzvah regarding the treatment of an eved Knaani (Canaanite slave). One could question the relevance of these laws in our modern times, yet our Torah is eternal, replete with lessons that transcend time and place. The Torah teaches us in Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:46, “ועבדם לעולם,” which is often understood as “they shall serve you forever.” This notion can spark a deeper reflection on the concept of freedom and servitude, especially when juxtaposed with our own avodat Hashem (service of G-d).

The great commentators of our tradition provide profound insights into these laws. Rashi, for example, comments on the phrase “לעולם” emphasizing its limitations. He elucidates that this term does not imply eternal slavery, but rather until the Yovel (Jubilee year), reminding us that ultimate freedom belongs to G-d alone.

Ramban (Nachmanides) adds another layer to our understanding. He describes the eved Knaani’s giyur leshem avdus (conversion for the purpose of servitude), signifying a partial entry into the Jewish covenant – a state which ensures that the eved is not entirely disconnected from the spiritual framework of Torah and mitzvot.

The Sforno, delving deeper into the psyche of the eved, interprets the mitzvah as a mechanism for the eved to recognize his true Master in Heaven. The Sforno suggests that through the experience of servitude, one can come to a more profound realization of one’s ultimate purpose.

While we no longer have an eved Knaani in the literal sense, the concept of freedom alluded to in these verses remains ever relevant. We live in a society that champions the pursuit of autonomy, yet our sages teach us that true freedom is not the absence of restraint, but rather, the harnessing of one’s actions, inclinations, and ambitions towards a life of Torah and mitzvot.

As we reflect upon this message, we can begin to appreciate the depth within these biblical laws. They serve as a metaphor for our lives, reminding us that our personal “slavery” – whether to our jobs, desires, or habits – should not distract us from our avodat Hashem. True liberation comes from the recognition that we are all avadim (servants) to something. The question we must ask ourselves is: To whom or to what are we dedicating that servitude?

May we all strive to serve Hashem with joy and dedication, embracing the yoke of Torah and mitzvot as the ultimate expression of freedom. In the merit of our learning and our actions, may we witness the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days, when “וּמָל אֶת-לֵבָבֶךָ, וְאֶת-לֵבָב זַרְעֶךָ” – “G-d will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your offspring” and we will all serve Him with a complete heart, without any constraints.

Good Shabbos,
[Your Name]


Rabbi Brandman