Two years ago, I wrote an article entitled “The Slave’s Ear,” in which I discussed the halacha pertaining to a Jewish slave who wishes to remain with his master after the seven-year period of servitude has elapsed. The law, as stated in this week’s Parsha, is as follows:
“If the eved shall say, ‘I love my master, my (slave) wife and my (slave) children; I shall not go free,’ then his master shall bring him to the court and shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost, and his master shall bore through his ear with the awl, and he shall serve him forever (meaning until his master’s death or the Yovel).” (Shemos 21:5-6)
Another possuk states, “For the Children of Israel are servants to Me. They are My servants, whom I have taken out of the land of Egypt, I am Hashem your G-d” (Vayikra 25:55) The Gemora elaborates:
“Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai used to expound this verse like a jewel: How is the ear different from all [other] parts of the body? Said the Holy One Blessed is He, the ear heard My voice on Har Sinai at the moment that I said, ‘For unto Me the Children of Israel are servants and not the servants of servants,’ and [yet], this person has [disregarded that which the ear has heard and has] gone and bought a master for himself, [therefore] let [his ear] be pierced.
“And Rabbi Shimon bar Rebbi used to expound this verse like a jewel: How are the door and the doorpost different from all [other] utensils in the house? Said the Holy One Blessed is He, the door and the doorpost were witnesses at the moment that I passed over the lintel and two doorposts [of Jewish homes in Egypt] and declared, ‘For unto Me the Children of Israel are servants and not the servants of servants,’ and then I delivered [the Jews] from slavery to freedom, and [yet], this [Jew] has [spurned My declaration that was witnessed by the door and doorpost, for he has] gone and bought a master for himself. [Therefore] let [his ear] be pierced in the presence of [the door and doorposts].” (Kiddushin 22b)
I find it frightening to observe the number of people using cell phones on the street. We as a society are walking around semi-conscious, slaves to an electronic master. Some people walk around with metal devices attached to their ears so that they can be perpetually connected.
Tonight I entered a large bais medrash where fathers were learning with their children. I saw many beautiful scenes, but I saw a few places where the child was learning, waiting for the father, and the father was so engrossed with his phone that his child was ignored. I was crying.
My wife read about a child who asked his father for a cell phone for his seventh birthday. The father asked why. The child replied, “So I can text mommy.” I once stopped a lady wheeling a stroller and told her – I believe with respect – that she was ignoring her baby by speaking on the cell phone. I was perhaps unwise, but I was crying for her abandoned baby.
As I said two years ago, we are awaiting Shofar Gadol, the moment when the world of Edom disintegrates and a new world, whose center is Har Habayis, bursts upon the earth like a blossom in springtime. We must listen for the Shofar, because, if we fail to hear it, then we may become confused and make wrong decisions, G-d forbid, at a time when our lives are on the line.
Our entire survival has been based on adherence to the words, “Shema Yisroel.” We have to be able to listen, to hear! While other nations live in darkness and think that their survival is based on mundane calculations, we – lehavdil – have survived because we understand that our life is guided only by the will of the Master of the Universe.
We say in the Shema that we are supposed to love Hashem with all our hearts, souls and resources, as we sit in our homes and “uv’lechtecha bederech … while we walk on the way.” Do we believe the words we are saying? How can we love Hashem with all our hearts as we walk on the derech if we are attached to an electronic master?
How can we say “Shema” if we are not listening?
You may think that I am unrealistic, that the world will never listen to my backward opinion.
My friends, we do not see what is coming. Forces are at work which will overpower the entire world as we know it. Dovid Hamelech says, “Ki gavar aleinu chasdo … for His kindness has overwhelmed us.” (Tehillim 117)
The word “gavar … overwhelmed” means that we cannot prevent it. Radak explains that this Chapter in Tehillim refers to the world after the advent of Moshiach. (Artscroll) The Redemption is coming and no one can stop it.
We are about to enter Chodesh Adar, which contains a mighty Yom Tov called Purim. In Shushan Habira, there was a man named Mordechai, who refused to acknowledge the supremacy of Haman Harasha. Mordechai might have been dismissed as a hopeless innocent who was in mortal danger of being stepped on by the mighty ruler. But Mordechai clung to the G-d of Israel “with all his heart and all his soul and all his resources.” As a result, the mighty ruler, along with his murderous plans, was toppled against all odds, “v'nehefach hu.”
“It turned for them … from sorrow to gladness, from mourning to festival.” (Megillah 9:22)
Our upside down world is also about to flip. Gashmius will land on the bottom and ruchnius on top. At that time, we will need to hear Hashem’s Voice, which is calling out to us right now in the darkness: “Shema Yisroel, Hashem Elokainu, Hashem Echad!”