The ear that heard

The first law after the Ten Commandments is the servant’s law. It’s fascinating to see that this was the law that was chosen by God to be given to the Israelites. In this law, there’s a unique situation when the servant wants to continue his slavery after he declares that “he Love his Master” (Exodus 21:5. Only then he is going to be a servant his entire life (Rashi and others say that until the year of Jubilee). This law is only for Hebrew males. Let’s us see what happens to his ear, as written:

“וְהִגִּישׁ֤וֹ אֲדֹנָיו֙ אֶל־הָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים וְהִגִּישׁוֹ֙ אֶל־הַדֶּ֔לֶת א֖וֹ אֶל־הַמְּזוּזָ֑ה וְרָצַ֨ע אֲדֹנָ֤יו אֶת־אָזְנוֹ֙ בַּמַּרְצֵ֔עַ וַעֲבָד֖וֹ לְעֹלָֽם׃”

his master shall take him before God. He shall be brought to the door or the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl, and he shall then remain his slave for life. (Exodus 21:6)

Why the ear was chosen? Which ear? For this let’s see Rashi, who brought in his commentary the Midrash and the Talmud-

“הַיְמָנִית, אוֹ אֵינוֹ, אֶלָּא שֶׁל שְׂמֹאל? תַּ”לֹ אֹזֶן אֹזֶן לִגְזֵרָה שָׁוָה, נֶאֱמַר כָּאן וְרָצַע אֲדֹנָיו אֶת אָזְנוֹ, וְנֶאֱמַר בִּמְצֹרָע תְּנוּךְ אֹזֶן הַמִּטַּהֵר הַיְמָנִית (ויקרא י”ד), מַה לְּהַלָּן הַיְמָנִית, אַף כָּאן הַיְמָנִית; וּמָה רָאָה אֹזֶן לֵרָצַע מִכָּל שְׁאָר אֵבָרִים שֶׁבַּגּוּף? אָמַר רַבָּן יוֹחָנָן בֶּן זַכַּאי: אֹזֶן זֹאת שֶׁשָּׁמְעָה עַל הַר סִינַי לֹא תִגְנֹב, וְהָלַךְ וְגָנַב, תֵּרָצַע. וְאִם מוֹכֵר עַצְמוֹ, אֹזֶן שֶׁשָּׁמְעָה עַל הַר סִינַי כִּי לִי בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל עֲבָדִים, וְהָלַךְ וְקָנָה אָדוֹן לְעַצְמוֹ, תֵּרָצַע.

” “His ear” means his right ear. Or perhaps this is not so, but Scripture means his left ear? Scripture, however, uses the term אזן here and it uses אזן in another passage, thereby suggesting an analogy based upon verbal similarity; viz., here it is said “and his lord shall bore his ear (אזנו) through”, and of the leper it is said, (Leviticus 14:25) “and the priest shall put it upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed”. — How is it in that latter passage? It is the right ear! So here, too, it is the right ear. —

What is the reason that the ear had to be pierced rather than any other limb of the servant’s body? Rabban Jochanan ben Zaccai said: That ear which heard on Mount Sinai, (Exodus 20:13) “Thou shalt not steal” and yet its owner went and stole and was therefore sold as a slave — let it be pierced! Or, in the case of him who sold himself from destitution, having committed no theft, the reason is: That ear which heard on Mount Sinai what I said, (Leviticus 25:55) “For unto Me the children Israel are servants” and yet its owner went and procured for himself another master — let it be pierced! (Mekhilta d’Rabbi Yishmael 21:6:3; Kiddushin 22b).

Why do you think about this commentary?

Share with us and have a great week!

Eli

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