Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ambiguity and Mystery vs. Clarity & Display - Bamidbar

Robot with clarity, flag and rigidity
We crave clarity in an ambiguous world.

In the early 90's I struggled to decide on a vocation. Did I want to join the Chabad movement's team of “Shluchim” agents of the Rebbe to try to bring Jews back to observance or undertake some other path? As I sat at a tribute dinner to my grandfather Rabbi Joshua T. Kastel in Boston shortly after he passed away and heard how much he was loved and how he contributed as dean of the Lubavitch school there, I decided that I did not need to decide because the decision had already been made for me. I had to try to fill his shoes, this was my destiny and life's work. Except that it wasn't. Since 2006 my full time occupation is focused on the needs of the wider community and diversity education work[1]. 

Clarity vs. Mystery, flexibility and ambiguity
Clarity is sought in matters of the the spirit, purpose, identity and relationships between people and groups. I have watched in amazement and despair as groups lap up the “us good victims, them evil, evil perpetrators” discourse in speeches, print and Facebook, over and over again, like a toddler listening to a familiar bed time story. This week Jews read a section called “Bamidbar”, “In the wilderness”. It begins with a census displaying God's love[2] and clarifying the number of men[3] wandering in the uncertain landscape. Followed quickly by another step of clarity and display, the allocation of flags to groups of Jews[4].  Yet it ends with some holy objects being shrouded from view[5]. How do we navigate the balance between the desire for clarity, sense of place and pride and the flexibility, freedom and mystery that invariably come at the price of ambiguity?

This question plays out in the lives of so call “new economy” workers. These are people who work as free agents, constantly moving between short or medium terms jobs as well as between cities and countries, enjoying great freedom and flexibility. Some of these workers are now craving the sense of belonging and recognised identity they left behind with the company job. Some even work “alone, together” in a shared work space with other unattached workers. Others express frustration about not being known as they leave their reputation behind in one country and start work in the next[6].  

Desert Flags & Belonging
The unconnected worker is advised to build her own “personal brand”. For the Jews wandering In the desert, the approach was a more traditional one, with a tribal or collective “brand”. Every Jew belonged in a particular place in the camp, around a flag with known colours and images that related specifically to his group of tribes[7], or his tribe[8] or even his clan or family[9]. “In this way each would recognise his flag [10]”.

In this very ordered society, misfits are unlikely to do well. We are told the background story of the executed blasphemer. He was the son of a Jewish woman who was raped by an Egyptian[11]. He came to pitch his tent in the camp of Dan,
they said to him “what is your nature that you would pitch your tent in the camp of Dan?”
he replied,”I am the (son of one of the) daughters of Dan,
they said “it is written each man...according to their fathers houses
he went to the house of judgement of Moses where things did not go well for him, he then stood up and blasphemed”[12].   

His case aside, the flags expressed strength stemming from people knowing who they were. The evil prophet and sorcerer Billam who had sought to curse the Jews but was thwarted, is said to have looked at the flags and then remarked “who can touch these people who recognise their fathers and their families[13]”.  

Definite Purpose
Perhaps what really impressed Billam was that he saw “that each one stands in his place that is proper and corresponds to his strengths (as these are manifest) above (in the spiritual dimension)[14].

The idea that the flags relate to purpose is linked to a Midrash about the origin of the flags. When the Jews were at Mt. Sinai they saw Twenty-two thousand chariots of angels, each one decked out with flags, (that) attended the Revelation of the Torah. The Israelites immediately desired to have flags just like the angels [15]”.

The angelic connection is significant, because angels symbolise a fixed purpose. They are divine messengers created to fulfil one task, and cannot do any other task other than the specific mission for which they were created. Their flags, reflected this clear purpose.  Human beings, however are not limited to serving God in one particular manner[16]. For humans, a banner is too restricting; it does not reflect our true free and flexible spiritual essence. Still the Jews desired the flags and the clarity they represented. This was granted to them[17].  Perhaps they would have liked Mikey Jordan, a Sydney barista who has declared a belief in freedom from choice” and provides certainty in coffee, giving his customers no choice in the matter[18].  Interestingly, to the best of my knowledge these flags did not continue to play a part in the worship of the Jews in later times[19].

There is plenty of merit in making our unique contribution, best suited to our talents and interests. The tension here is between a quest for a predestined purpose which is then followed somewhat rigidly and what I think is a more dynamic on-going exploration of what I can possibly do today or in the future that is the most appropriate and useful.

Coverings and Smoke
The reads ends with another expression of the question of display and mystery. The Levite tribe whose task it was to carry the holy objects of the portable desert temple were forbidden to see the objects that they carried[20]. The holy ark was covered by Aaron and his sons who were Cohanim (a separate religious class) with two coverings[21]. The effect of this was that the holy objects would remain “Symbolic objects, subjects for the mind, for thoughts, not much as actual tangible objects, and so all the more fill their minds with thoughts of their meaning[22]”. The space where the ark was kept was only visited once a year by the high priest and even then he was enveloped with a cloud of smoke[23].   

There is comfort, value in definition and clarity, and in finding ones place and purpose. How attractive it is for many people for everything to be as clear about it all as the angels. Equally, there is potential for still greater achievement by embracing the infinite possibilities inherent in being human, and I think the stress of uncertainty is a fair price to pay for this. I suggest that this is true both in the the way we relate to the divine and our fellow human beings, including those whose beliefs, ethnicity or perspectives on certain conflicts are different to our own. It might be harder, but it is the more promising path.

[1]    I still do my bit for the Chabad movement, teaching Bar Mitzvah students on a Sunday morning and teaching adults on Saturday afternoon. Monday-Friday, I lead the “Inclusive, multi-faith based”, Together For Humanity Foundation.
[2]    Rashi
[3]    Numbers 1:2
[4]    Numbers 2:2, 34
[5]    Numbers 4:5-20
[6]    Delaney, B, The Community of the Office, Sydney Morning Herald, 21.05.11, p22
[7]    Abarbanel states that his view is that there were only 4 flags, but that the commentators said that there were twelve.
[8]    Rabbenu Bchai, also strongly implied in Bamidbar Rabba 2:6
[9]    Haemek Davar
[10]  Rashi, on Numbers 2:2
[11]  Leviticus 24:10, with commentary
[12]  Torah Kohanim Emor Parshata 14
[13]  Bamidbar Rabba 2:3
[14]  Etz Yosef commentary on Bamidbar Rabba 2:3, see the Ramban on 2:2, who links the tribe of Judah to kingship, Yissachar to Torah, Zevulun to riches, Reuben to Teshuvah etc. The Klei Yakar has additional roles, Shimon were teachers, scribes and paupers in whom humility is more common, and Gad is charitable.
[15]  Bamidbar Rabba 2:3, God's response was that he “swore that by their lives”, they will have flags too. Generally an oath is made to overcome resistance. While God granted their request, it would seem that in a sense they would have done better without the flags.
[16]  See Nefesh Hachaim1:10
[17]  Morrison, C, 2006, based on the teaching of Rav Kook, in Gold From the Land of Israel, pp. 227-229. Adapted from Midbar Shur, pp. 24-25), this article also makes the link between the Midrash linking the flags with the song of songs (2:4) “he brought me to the wine house and his banner over me is love”  and the idea that  “when wine enters the  secrets come out (Talmud Eiruvin 65a) in that both the flags and wine reveal the inner character.,
[18]  Sydney Morning Herald, 21-22 May 2011, p3
[19]  although the colours continued to be displayed on the chest of the high priest, the Cohen Gadol
[20]  Numbers 4:5-20
[21]  Bamidbar Rabba, states that even the Cohanim did not look at the holy objects, instead lowering the cover bit by bit
[22]  R. Samson Raphael Hirsh, commentary on Numbers 4:17
[23]  Oznayim LaTorah, cited in Nachshoni, Y (1991), Studies in the Weekly Parshah Bamidbar, Artscroll, Brooklyn NY,  p.932

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Degradation & Grime, Abundance & “Good Breeding”

How do we respond when confronted with the impact of degradation on people? Political correctness seems to demand that because people are of a minority we must never speak about their faults, which can't be right. On the other hand those of us who are privileged can be judgmental and patronizing.

I reflect on my reaction to a group of Indigenous people I saw in Todd Mall, in the center of Alice Springs (Australia), the first time I met Indigenous people outside a “Westernized” situation. Their eyes were blank, they seemed completely zoned out, their clothes dirty and shabby, they appeared to be wandering around aimlessly. I could not help looking down at these degraded people. I did not think, 'there but for the grace of God go I'.

I was reminded of this experience recently while reading Mark Twain's very disparaging, even racist comments about the “Goshoot Indians"i. I now think I should have thought about the effects of privilege and degradation before I judged these people who I learned later were probably drunk.

3 ways of God relating to us, Abundance, Punishment,
and Covenant
This week, Jews read about two sets of circumstances in which God places the “children of Israel”. These involve either prosperity and peace or frightening calamities, and are primarily a lesson about reward and punishment and our relationship with God (this is reflected in the drawing of three ways of being with God, grace, retribution and unconditional covenant). On another level, the dramatic effects of these conditions on the moral, social, psychological and communal lives of the people are worth exploring.

Privilege and Plenty on the Macro level
If the Jews will “walk in my statutes and keep my commandments ii” great reward will follow. We are promised “rain in its timeiii. These rains will result in an abundance of produce, and according to commentaries, also “clean and good air”, and will be good for the “wells and rivers and cause good health for bodies and fruits…people will not fall ill…iv.

Peace – Outer and Inner
We are also promised the blessing of peace, “Peace is equal to everything!”v. “You will dwell securely in your land. I will give peace in the land, you will sleep and not be afraid”vi.

Some see peace on an international level. “it is possible that it means peace in the world in general …he assures them that there will be peace in the entire world…the desire of God is for this, which is reflected in the 70 oxen offered as sacrifices on the festival corresponding to the 70 nations of the world…vii

There is a strong trend among commentaries to interpret peace in social and psychological terms. “There will be peace between you; a man will not fight with his brother”viii. Putting it another way, “God will plant peace and friendship in your hearts. As a result of the great harvests, people will not need to wander looking for work, instead they will feel deeply rooted in the land and automatically there will be no crimeix.

The Torah verse “and a sword will not pass in your landx is interpreted to mean that “People will feel so secure that they will not be accustomed to use swords xi”. Or that the sense of security will result in the elimination of the ancient equivalent of airport security. There was a custom that no man was allowed to enter a land in time of war with their weapons, instead these would be confiscated and given to the guard and the city ruler, but during times of peace they will not go out to remove the swords “because each man will trust in his brother and believe (in each other)xii.

In this scenario, we live dignified, happy, peaceful, admirable lives, made far easier by privilege. I acknowledge that being happy if one is privileged is not effortless, too many people have everything and are still miserable. Still, for those of us who have so much, we must never think ourselves superior to those tested in the most difficult circumstances.

Calamity and its social and personal impact
If will not listen and not do all these commandmentsxiii, we are warned that this will result in Illness, failed crops, drought, wild animals, desolate roads, pestilence, military defeat, destruction of cities and land, and exile.

On an internal level we are warned that the illness is such that it makes the eyes fail and the soul languish xiv, and the patient is “depressed and worriedxv.

Famine will not only mean that many people will go without food, but that even if you get some food, “You will eat but not be satisfied xvi. The famine will drive people to cannibalism, “you will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters you will eatxvii. “The image of God will be removed from their faces, and replaced with a face of fury, when their enemies see these “faces of fury” they will be filled with cruelty xviii”. You will run away, but there will be no one chasing youxix. God will bring a weakness in their hearts, they will be pursued by the sound of a driven leaf, and they will flee as if from a sword xx. “Death will kill them from withinxxi”.

Turning on each other
Communally, things will go bad. “Even as exiles in the lands of their enemies they will be apart from each other, instead of of following the (usual) way of exiles to comfort one another...each seeks to push his friend with strong arm tactics, to knock him down from his (meager) situation. Like reeds that are hit twice, once by the wind, then as they knock each is like honey, sweet in his mouth if he can find an opportunity to speak badly about his fellow”xxii. “Enemies will arise from among your nation, because they are familiar with you they know where to search for your hidden (goods), and they are worse them enemies from (other) nations…they will steal your flesh and skin”xxiii.

Importance of Choice
Heather Laughton is an impressive Indigenous Australian woman from Alice Springs. She believes one very important lesson young people in her community need to learn is that they have a choice about how they respond to their situation. One of the most passionate arguments in defence of people whose “place lead them to sin” combines this with the insistence that he has no excuse for his sins because he should have chosen to do what is right out of fear of Godxxiv. The exercise of this kind of choice by people in the worst situations and hardship is profoundly inspiring.

Unconditional Love
Perhaps one source of strength for people in hard times is stated at the lowest point of our reading. “And even when they will be in the lands of their enemies, I will not despise them, not will I abhor them to destroy them utterly, to break my covenant with them, because I am YkVkxxv their God. I will remember the covenant…xxvi This is unconditional love and an unbreakable bond.

The prophet Jeremiah said four things xxvii (about God’s relationship with the Jews), disgust, abhorrence, abandonment and forgetfulness. “Have you become disgusted with Judea, if with Zion your soul (finds) abhorrent xxviii” but he was answered by Moses “I will not despise them, not will I abhor them to destroy them utterly”, He also said “why forever will you forget us, abandon us for length of days xxix”, in this he was answered by Isaiah who brought God's message that “also these should be forgotten, but I will not forget you”xxx.

For me living in great abundance in comparison with most of the earth's inhabitants, I must be grateful for what I have and recognize that ever I achieve has been done with profound advantages. When I look at those who subsist on crumbs and live with powerlessness, I must stand in awe of those who choose to live with dignity and standards, and avoid judgement of others for whom civility itself can become hard to preserve and crime hard to resist. For there, but for the grace of God, go I. Perhaps xxxi

i Twain, Mark, in “Roughing it” chapter 19, p127-129. The name “Go-Shoot Indians” suggests that it might be a satire, although it might just be an ironic renaming of the “Gosiutes”. Regardless of his various intentions, what he writes is a view held by some about various groups living in poverty and diminished circumstances and struggling with social problems). Among other things he states “It was along in this wild country somewhere, and far from any habitation of white men, except the stage stations, that we came across the wretchedest type of mankind I have ever seen, up to this writing. I refer to the Goshoot Indians....inferior to all races of savages on our continent... small, lean, "scrawny" creatures; in complexion a dull black like the ordinary American Negro; their faces and hands bearing dirt which they had been hoarding and accumulating for months, years, and even generations, according to the age of the proprietor; a silent, sneaking, treacherous looking race; taking note of everything, covertly, like all the other "Noble Red Men" that we (do not) read about, and betraying no sign in their countenances; indolent, everlastingly patient and tireless, like all other Indians; prideless beggars--for if the beggar instinct were left out of an Indian he would not "go," any more than a clock without a pendulum; ...savages who, when asked if they have the common Indian belief in a Great Spirit show a something which almost amounts to emotion, thinking whiskey is referred to...It was curious to see how quickly the paint and tinsel fell away from him and left him treacherous, filthy and repulsive”. For more on this, see a general scholarly discussion at or a more focused critique at,
ii Leviticus 26:3
iii Leviticus 26:4, Rashi points out that in addition to the agricultural benefits of the rain, it will also not even inconvenience people because it will fall on Friday nights when people are not usually outdoors
iv Ramban
v Rashi on Leviticus 26:6
vi Leviticus 26:5-6
vii Ohr Hachayim, I wondered how he reconciles his wonderful interpretation with the following verse “and you will pursue your enemies and they will fall before you by the sword” (Leviticus 26:7). He states in his commentary to the next verse, “what He assures (us) is that from the other nations not will do evil or destroy but not there will not be (harm and destruction) from Israel to (the) nations…you will pursue them and destroy them and in spite of this you will sit securely and in peace…they are called enemies, not because they come to lay siege to the holy city (of Jerusalem) because if this was the case, there is no security and there is no peace for its inhabitants, rather it calls them “enemies” because they are the enemies of God, the wicked of the nations, therefore they are called the enemies of God and are therefore also our enemies…” I will not attempt to explain this.
viii Ramban, and Ibn Ezra, Ramban goes on to state that animals will not miscarry or be barren
ix Hoffman, R. David Zwi, quoted in Nachshoni, Y, Studies in the Weekly Parsha Artscroll Publications, Jerusalem, p.873. Even the International understanding of peace of the Ohr Hachayim, has a psychological element as he states “when there are wars (anywhere) in the world, even those in living securely will tremble for the sounds of war .
x Leviticus 26:6
xi Haemek Davar
xii Pirush Yonatan, in the name of “my older brother, the Aluf, my master and teacher, Rabbi Naftali”.
xiii Leviticus 26:14-43
xiv Leviticus 26:16
xv Radak
xvi Leviticus 26:26
xvii Levticus 26:29
xviii “Shach” ( I don’t think it is the sifsei Chachomim as I was unable to find it), quoted in Greenbaum, N, Otzar Mefarshei Hapshat al Hatorah on Leviticus 26:17
xix Leviticus 26:17, see a wonderful piece on modern applications of this idea by Rabbi Zalman Posner,
xx Leviticus 26:36
xxi Sifsei Chachomim on 26:17
xxii Klei Yakar on Leviticus 26:36
xxiii Yalkut Bechukotai 673
xxiv Tanya 30, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liady
xxv Chasidic custom is to refer to the Tetgramaton as Yud Kay Vav Kay.
xxvi Leviticus 26:44-45
xxvii Eicha Rabba 5:20
xxviii Jeremia 14:19
xxix Lamentations 5:20
xxx Isaiah 49:15
xxxi I learned the idea of adding the word perhaps at the end of a thought from my colleague Fuzz Kitto

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Jubilee & the Un-Jubilant, Property & Slavery, Jews and Non-Jews

Canaanite slave watches Hebrew slave go to freedom
and land while he remains behind
As the buzz of the royal wedding fades, some have contrasted the injustice of inherited privilege with the principle of equality of opportunity and reward based on merit. Yet, disadvantaged is often entrenched among the “have not”s and even passed from generation to generation. This week I examine some mechanisms for disrupting disadvantage as these apply to Jews and Non-Jews.

Some property owners can fall on hard times and need to sell up, which would normally result in the rich getting rich and the poor getting poorer. This was not the case in Ancient Israel, where every 50th year was the Jubilee year and at that time any land that was sold would revert to the original owners and each man would return to his “holdings”[1].  The Jubilee year reminds us that the land belongs to God, we can never sell the land for ever “because mine is the land” כי לי הארץ we are merely “residents and settlers” with God[2].

This was a massive redistribution of wealth. The closest to this that we might experience is deciding to start over at the end of a bad monopoly game. This would level the playing field for many people.

It must be assumed that this would benefit only Jewish residents of the land, amongst whom the land of Canaan was divided after it was conquered. While this inequality bothers me, the Jubilee year has not been in practice for some 2000 years. The return of the Jubilee practice will resume with the Messianic era, but then it will be a time when “he that has no money; come “buy”, and eat; come buy wine and milk without money and without price[3]”. In that kind of environment, I doubt property will matter.   

Freedom for all
Another aspect of the Jubilee year was freedom for slaves. The Torah states “proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants[4]. It is significant that it does not proclaim liberty for slaves, but to all its inhabitants. There are technical reasons given for this[5] , including an indication that it also applies to women slaves[6], but the most interesting interpretation is that “in any country where freedom is incomplete even if only a few are slaves, all the people are slaves. Slavery is an affliction which afflicts both slave and master”[7]

Non-Jewish Slaves
The argument that freedom for all is needed for there to be freedom for anyone would suggest that non-Jewish slaves were included in this law. However the Torah states that “slaves and maid-servants that you will have from the nations around you and from residents among you…forever will you work with them[8]”.

Slavery merely tolerated by the Torah
It has been argued by a range of scholars that while Torah permits slavery, it does so as a concession to ancient civilisations that would find it to hard to get rid of all their slaves, with their economies and agriculture so dependent on slave labour and so legislates it to minimise the harm, with a view to gradually eliminating it completely[9].
There is a suggestion that slavery was only tolerated by the Torah rather than endorsed by it[10].

The restrictions on slavery, and would therefore begin a process of moving away from slavery are many. Some of these apply to a Jewish slave, such as a master being forbidden to giving him menial tasks such as cleaning the barn. Such a task would be permissible to demand from a Jewish employee because it is not so difficult for a free person because if he wants to do it, he does and if he does not want to he (free to quit and does) not do it[11].

Other restrictions apply to both Jewish and Non-Jewish slaves, such as the law that a slave who is beaten so severely that he looses a tooth or other limb goes free[12]. Perhaps the strongest signal against slavery, is the prohibition of returning an escaped slave to his master. “do not give over a slave to his master who will be saved to you from his master. He should dwell with you, in the place that he will choose in one of your gates, do not mistreat him[13]. This is interpreted as applying to a non-Jewish slave who escaped his Jewish master who lives outside the holy land, if the slave reaches the holy land[14]

Guidance against freeing slaves
This view of slavery is challenged by the law that the verse mentioned above “slaves and maid-servants that you will have from the nations around you and from residents among you…forever will you work with them” is not merely permission to continue to own a non-Jewish slave which is the view put forward by Rabbi Yishmael[15] but a requirement as is the view of Rabbi Akiva[16]. The consensus of the Halacha follows the view of Rabbi Akiva[17]. The only exception is when there is an opportunity for a Mitzvah such as the slave being freed to make up a Minyan for prayer then it is acceptable to free him. It is difficult to reconcile this with a view of slavery as merely tolerated by the Torah.

There are 2 approaches to this idea of the perpetual slave. One approach could be to put greater weight on the idea that these slaves would be “Cananite slave” to restrict this to slaves to the children of Ham, but that slaves descended from Shem (regardless of their faith, perhaps) would be automatically freed[18].  This raises other questions about the justice of people being treated differently based on their ancestor and also touches on issues dealt with partially about the whole notion of divine sanction of slavery through the course of Ham[19].  A second approach is an attempt to broaden the loophole which allows freeing slaves “for the purpose of a Mitzvah” to include “reasons of general morality[20]”.

I have not reconciled our modern attitudes to slavery and all of Torah’s statements about this. The image of the Jewish slave going on to freedom and back to his home while the Canaanite slave remains behind disturbs me. Yet, it has no practical application today, where slaves are not kept. I think the balance of guidance in the Torah is still toward treating all people justly, doing that which is proper and good in the eyes of God[21].

[1] Leviticus 25:13
[2] Leviticus 25:23
[3]  Isaiah 55:1
[4] Leviticus 25:10
[5] The law only applies when all “its inhabitants” are present on the land (Sifra & Talmud Arachin 32), Or it only applies to those who inhabit the holy land but not to other nations who are not obligated to free slaves in the jubilee year (Bchor Shor).
[6] Chizkuni, Mosad Harav Kook Edition p.414
[7] Pnei Yehoshua, Joshua son of Joseph Falk, 1593-1648, he adds, “This is another meaning in the words of our sages, “he who acquires a Hebrew slave, acquires a master for himself”
[8] Leviticus 25:44-46
[9] Rabinovitch, N. E, (2003), “The Way of Torah,” The Edah Journal 3,1, (2003) pp. 8-12. cited in Cooper, C, (2011) Eved Kena’ani, the other Jewish Slave,, also Freeman, T,,
 I find it fascinating to see the range of people to take position along these lines. Perhaps, surprisingly these include, Tzvi Freeman of who states
 “Torah is a radical element in our world. …On the one hand, the Torah speaks from a future that has yet to occur, inspiring us with its vision, pulling us toward that time. On the other hand, the Torah must deal with the world as it is, not artificially imposing upon it a foreign mold, but bringing it on its own from the place it stands by nature and circumstance to the place it truly belongs. Take an agrarian society surrounded by hostile nations. Go in there and forcefully abolish slavery. The result? …eventually, a return to slavery until the underlying conditions change.  Not a good idea. Better idea: Place humane restrictions upon the institution of indentured servitude. Yes, it's still ugly, but in the meantime, you'll teach people compassion and kindness. Eventually, things change and slavery becomes an anachronism for such a society…So the "conservative-radical" approach of Torah is this: Work with the status quo to get beyond it. Torah is more about process than about content.”
[10] Berkovits, Rabbi Eliezer Jewish Women in Time and Torah cited in Hecht, Rabbi B, (1994)
[11] Bchor Shor, Behar, Mosad Harav Kook edition p. 232, It could be argued that this freedom of employees was eroded with the industrial age and the labour market favouring employers, making employees desperate. Perhaps trade unions have restored the balance somewhat. The full extent of this argument is beyond my area of knowledge.
[12] Exodus 21:26
[13] Deuteronomy 23:16-17, 
[14] Rashi, 2nd interpretation on the following verse
[15] This same view is the one favored initially by Ibn Ezra who states about the verse “you shall work them forever”, “it is allowed, but when I found that the sages, may their memory be for a blessing, stated that it is a commandment, we accepted it (their view).
[16] Talmud, Gittin 38b,
[17] as stated in the in the Rif, Tur Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 267, Mimonedes Laws of Slaves 9:6, Rosh Gittin Chapter
[18] Midrash Yelamdenu brought in Likutim Part 6, 2, p32, Beresheet Zuta 44, also related to Zohar part 3, 111 Raya Mehemna, in Torah Shlaima vol 34 p111
[19], needs substantial further work[20] R. Samson Raphael Hirsh, on Leviticus 25:46
[21] Deuteronomy 6:18