Dvar Torah Vayigash 2006 – 5766 דבר תורה ויגש

Towards the end of the Parsha we read how Yosef dealt with the people of Egypt when the famine became very strong. After the Egyptians used all their money to buy food they came to Yosef claiming they had nothing else to give for the purchase of their sustenance except their land and themselves. They were prepared to give up both these things and become slaves of Pharaoh. They said to Yosef: VENIHEYEH ANACHNU VE’ADMATENU AVADIM LEPHARO, “… and we, with our land, will become slaves to Pharaoh …”. (Gen. 47,19)

When we read further we see that Yosef did purchase all their land but he did not make the people slaves. This shows the great abhorrence of Jews to the practice of slavery. While the Torah does permit it, the rules that govern slavery are made very distinct in order to prevent taking away the dignity of the slave. The Rabbis of the Talmud went further in their guaranteeing the rights of the slave. He had rights and his master had to live up to many laws that prevented the slave from being mere property subject to the whims of his master.

Why all this? Because the Jew always had respect for the individual and was concerned about the dignity of man. Chazal tell us: GADOL KAVOD HABRIYOT SHEDOCHE LO TA’ASEH SHEBATORAH, “Great is the dignity of humans that it even overrides prohibitions in the Torah”. (Ber. 19b) Respect for others should always be a primary consideration.

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