Okay, they’re not really slaves. Slaves are people owned by other people. In Torah law, you never have complete ownership over anything. These slaves rest on the seventh day and Jewish holidays, cannot be physically or sexually abused and are obligated in many mitzvot. So they are really more like indentured servants.
I twice brought up the analogy of a town that allows for rape 6 days a week, and it’s because of handwaves like this. Other slaveowners made their slaves work 7 days a week, but Hebrew slaveowners were to only make their slaves work 6 days a week. Slightly less evil is still evil.
Slaves “cannot be physically” abused? We’ve already shown that to be false.
Slaves cannot be “sexually abused”? Tell that to the daughters who were sold to “please” the master or one of his sons.
[quote=Maimonides]It is permissible to work a non-Jewish servant harshly. Yet, although this is the law, the way of the pious and the wise is to be compassionate and to pursue justice, not to overburden or oppress a servant, and to provide them from every dish and every drink.
So there are no punishments or even restrictions in being harsh to one’s slave.
As far as feeding one’s slave, so what? A cowboy feeds his horses and a farmer feeds his oxen. That’s just practical. It’s not indicative of good.
On the other hand, Torah is the essence of all things. As the sages called it, “the blueprint of the universe.” So the Torah effects change not by imposing an exogenous order, but by revealing the inner, hidden order latent within all things. Torah is very much like a good teacher, one who shows you who you really are–which may be very different, even the opposite, of who you think you are.
How exactly did the Torah effect change? How did it reveal this alleged hidden order? No amount of Doublespeak (and that’s exactly what this all is) will give credit to the Torah or Bible for outlawing slavery. No Doublespeak will manifest a call in those books to stop the practice. Claiminng those holy books ended legal slavery is like saying Jack Daniels can cure alcoholism. It’s right there in black and white where God gives great detail as to how one is to acquire, keep, blackmail, hurt, and even kill a slave.
Take an agrarian society surrounded by hostile nations. Go in there and forcefully abolish slavery. The result? War, bloodshed, hatred, prejudice, poverty and eventually, a return to slavery until the underlying conditions change. Which is pretty much what happened in the American South when the semi-industrialized North imposed their laws upon the agrarian South. And in Texas when Mexico attempted to abolish slavery among the Anglophones there.
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. Educate. Make workshops. Go white-water rafting together. (Hey, why didn’t Abe Lincoln think of white-water rafting?) Eventually, things change and slavery becomes an anachronism for such a society.
First of all, as I’ve noted several times (with no one else disputing or even address it) the Torah and Bible says the Hebrews were held captive for upward of 400 years and when they got the how-to-enslave from God they were in the desert without slaves. So we can not equate this with trying to end slavery in a society that had it.
Second, God is supposed to be purely good, yet he gives the go-ahead for his people to commit truly evil acts without punishment. This isn’t letting a society finding their way this is a deity saying what is right and what is wrong and getting things in the wrong columns.
Third, it’s usually best to take the moral high ground even if others won’t listen. The phrase is “being on the wrong side of history” and Yahweh fits the bill when it comes to slavery.
Fourth, it talks about the North trying to “impose” their laws for slavery on the South as though this was a gray area. Slavery is wrong always.
Fifth, this whole passage – in fact, this whole article – is moral relativism. Slavery was allegedly slighly less bad when performed by the Hebrews, so it must be ok, right?
So you can see where I’m getting to with the slavery thing. If G‑d would simply and explicitly declare all the rules, precisely as He wants His world to look and what we need to do about it, the Torah would never become real to us. No matter how much we would do and how good we would be, we would remain aliens to the process.
So, too, with slavery (and there are many other examples): In the beginning, the world starts off as a place where oppressing others is a no-qualms, perfectly acceptable practice. It’s not just the practice Torah needs to deal with, it’s the attitude. So Torah involves us in arriving at that attitude. To the point that we will say, “Even though the Torah lets us, we don’t do things that way.”
God told his people how to wear the fringes on their clothes, when not to pick up sticks, when to marry a brother’s widow, yet this article claims God didn’t explicitly declare all of the rules. When Moses didn’t circumcise his kid in a timely manner the stories say God almost killed Moses until his wife used a rock on her child in the last moment. Think about that: Whether you take the stories figuratively or literally God takes circumcision far more seriously than centuries of slavery.