Wrapping up the week with Rabbi Berkman

Rabbi Berkman is a rabbi for Mesorah DC and leads this weekly discussion of the Torah portion.  The first part to this discussion ran on Monday.

A father had many children, nearly all of whom grew up to be fine, upstanding people. One son however, fell into the wrong crowd and eventually became a thief. Although this father loves and cares for all of his children equally, his central focus of worry and concern is on his son that has gone astray. How can he help him? The father wonders. What can I do to help the child I love get his life in order? Such are the worries of any parent who has a child in trouble, and so are the worries of God almighty when one of his children has chosen the wrong path in life.

We began the week with a question on the Torah portion. Of all the laws in the Torah dealing with interpersonal relationships, why begin with those dealing specifically with a slave?

We have to understand the nature and purpose of the institution of slavery that the Torah is teaching us about. A person steals and is unable to repay the stolen property. What do we do? Logic may dictate to throw the guilty party in jail. While throwing a thief in prison may serve as a punishment, chances are it will do nothing to help the criminal right his ways. Whenever the sentence is over the thief will return to society, be broke, need money, rob a bank, and end up back in the slammer. How often do we see criminals as second time offenders?

God, in the Torah has other ideas. This fellow has gone as gone astray of the law and forgotten how to live a proper lifestyle. Sell him into a proper, healthy family situation. Allow him to learn from their ways. After six years, he can return to society as a new person having relearned how to live proper way of life. Punishment is necessary. Punishment alone though, does not suffice. The Torah way of slavery, more than anything else is a rehabilitation process. Our sages explain that this slave is treated with the up most dignity.

God is worried about of one of his children and therefore doesn’t jump just to punish, rather he prescribes a plan to help his dear child find his way home.

We learn these laws first to remind us that we are all God’s beloved children and he looks to deal with us with nothing but compassion and concern. As we prepare to deal with each other, we must remember that the person we are dealing with is one of Gods children and do so with compassion and concern just as God himself asks us to do.

What a powerful message. Shabbat Shalom to all of God’s beloved children.

P.S. don’t forget Café Night 7pm Monday @6&I. Kosher class starts this week email

srulimotzen@gmail.com for more details.

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