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


Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University