Cat logomenu

How Torah Undermines the Very Slavery It Permits

Derek Leman repeats something I’ve been hearing frequently of late: that Jewish scholars think of their scriptures as non-fixed in meaning, requiring constant reinterpretation in light of existing knowledge.

Slavery is no longer permitted. I don’t mean that human laws abolished slavery. That is true also (yes, I know slavery still exists in the world, but I am speaking in general terms). I mean that slavery is no longer permitted according to Torah. But to accomplish that statement, I have to define Torah as something more than “what was written long ago.” Torah is not unchanging. Torah is not just what is written, but it is the way the community through tradition and ongoing commentary and conversation come to understand its ways over time.

As a fan of progressive revelation, I found his analysis of the Old Testament laws regarding slavery fascinating.