Liberating Our Internal Slave

Our parsha seeks to limit, curtail and ultimately move humanity a step closer to the absolute and complete abolition of the sin of slavery. Slavery was tragically pervasive in the ancient world, and as we know – even in our own country, slavery only came to an end after years of bloodshed and civil war, merely 155 years ago. In addition for calling for the emancipation of each slave after six years, the Torah also stipulates that physical abuse of slaves, such as the breaking of a tooth or the damaging of an eye, must immediately result in unconditional emancipation.

For the Chassidic masters, the emancipation of slavery is internal, rather than external. We are all, absent proper socialization, a-priori slaves to our basest desires and instincts, observe the Chassidic masters. The emancipated internal slave is thus the evolved and emotionally and mentally mature soul, who knows how to control its lustful urges and impulses. How to control eating, drinking and speaking (all symbolized by the slave who is liberated by way of “tooth”), and also – how to monitor the visual contents that the world constantly bombards us with (the internal slave symbolically emancipated by way of the “eye,” which allegorically represents here a person empowered with the internal cohesion and wherewithal to withstand and curtail potentially harmful visual images which we constantly need to confront, be it on the public street outside, or on one’s digital screen).

Modern psychology teaches us that healthy people master the art of delayed gratification and impulse control. This is what the Netivoth Shalom, a fairly contemporary Chassidic master has in mind, when he reminds us that we Sapiens emancipate ourselves by way of “tooth and eye” from internal mental and emotional slavery – only once we are no longer subservient to what Chassidism calls the vital/animal soul (and which Freud called the “id”).

We are only truly masters of our own fate and destiny when we run our bodies, rather than when are bodily cravings run us. We are no longer slaves, reminds us the Torah, once we can exercise a high measure of physical self-control and emotive self-mastery, as it pertains to the sensuous and the verbal facets of human existence and the human condition. May Hashem give us the strength to achieve just that. Our relationships, as well as our very physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and well-being, all depend in large measure on our adhering to this task of emancipating our internal slave, about which Bob Marley also sang so beautifully, as he articulated the following instructive and timeless words, to a soothing and pleasant melody: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery.”

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Sessler

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