Understanding the Torah’s Commandment to Return the Fugitive Slave

On the eve of the Civil War, the problem of escaped slaves who were apprehended after fleeing to the North aggravated the tensions between the free states and the South. While the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act required that free states return escapees to their masters, Deuteronomy states unequivocally, “Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee. He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him.” Yitzhak Melamed examines how Christian and Jewish exegetes explained this law:

Abraham Ibn Ezra (ca. 1089–1164), a polyglot and an astounding poet, grammarian, philosopher, astronomer, and Bible commentator [argued that] abuse of the slave reflects poorly on the nature of God, desecrating the divine name. According to Ibn Ezra’s explanation, the prohibition on returning the slave to his (legal) master is not grounded in the moral norms of the society from which the slave ran away (where the slave is just a criminal fugitive), nor is it clear what Israelite norm requires assisting the fugitive slave (since slavery was legal among the Israelites). It is just “God’s honor” that commends sheltering the slave . . . and providing him an asylum.

Moses Maimonides (1138–1204), [by contrast, believed that] the purpose of the law is to cultivate a moral and psychological trait of standing on the side of the weak and the abused.

In its historical context, Deuteronomy’s law stands in contrast to those of other ancient Near Eastern legal collections, which frequently include prohibitions against harboring fugitive slaves.

Read more at theTorah.com

More about: Abraham ibn Ezra, Biblical commentary, Deuteronomy, Moses Maimonides, Slavery


Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy