Once free, always free – Shabbat Kodesh Parshat Ki Tetzé

We will read this week:

לֹא־תַסְגִּ֥יר עֶ֖בֶד אֶל־אֲדֹנָ֑יו אֲשֶׁר־יִנָּצֵ֥ל אֵלֶ֖יךָ מֵעִ֥ם אֲדֹנָֽיו׃ 

You shall not turn over to the master a slave who seeks refuge with you from that master. 

עִמְּךָ֞ יֵשֵׁ֣ב בְּקִרְבְּךָ֗ בַּמָּק֧וֹם אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַ֛ר בְּאַחַ֥ד שְׁעָרֶ֖יךָ בַּטּ֣וֹב ל֑וֹ לֹ֖א תּוֹנֶֽנּוּ׃

Such individuals shall live with you in any place they may choose among the settlements in your midst, wherever they please; you must not ill-treat them.

It is an interesting situation. On its face the servant has illegally left his master and he should be returning. 

So why are we instructed not only to refrain from returning him, but to grant him freedom and allow him to live comfortably with us? 

Perhaps, because while legally he is bound to go back, there is an overriding issue here.  We must take into account the feelings of the person involved. Let us imagine the relief, happiness and feel of freedom that he has gained in the hours/days or weeks since having escaped. Putting a person who has gained his freedom back to his previous status, is so painful, that it is not allowed – even when his escape was not sanctioned or right. 

Gained freedom must not be reversed. 

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld