The very first law of the extended laws of Parashat Mishpatim starts with a horrifying phrase: “When you acquire a Hebrew slave.” We were just, two weeks ago, freed from being Hebrew slaves. How could the Torah possibly articulate the words “Hebrew slave”? This first law in Parashat Mishpatim forces us to confront the fact that oppressive structures become entrenched, and won’t disappear overnight. The dramatic liberation story is over. Now starts the much harder work of finding redemption within unideal and often harsh realities.
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