One of the morning blessings that we customarily recite as part of the morning prayers is "Blessed are you, Hashem, etc., that you didn't make me a slave." For a very long time, I found this blessing quite uninspiring. What is the relevance of such a blessing in an era when slavery is not part of our world.
In this week's Torah portion, we learn the laws of the Jewish servant. The Torah tells that Jews who have stolen and cannot pay back or people who are so poor they can no longer support themselves can work as servants for a Jewish master for a designated time of six years, after which they go free.
The Torah goes on to say that those who would like to remain in servitude past this time must undergo a bit of a painful and slightly gruesome procedure of having their ears pierced into a doorpost.
The commentaries explain the significance of this procedure. His ear heard at Mount Sinai that we are God's servants and no one else's, and yet he desires to serve someone other than God. The doorpost bares testimony to that night when the cries of the first born in Egypt were heard from every house except for the ones whose doorposts where smeared with the blood of the Pascal lamb. This was the night that God established the Jewish people as His servants, freeing them from the bondage of another master. By choosing to remain in servitude, this servant is not bringing to fruition the freedom that God granted the Jewish people on that night.
This idea is difficult to comprehend. This fellow is clearly someone who is having difficulty making it on his own. He signs up to be the servant of another Jew to give him the security of being taken care of in a safe and positive environment. His life improves and he wants to stay longer. How is this contradictory to the idea of being God's servant or a betrayal of anything that was established on the night we left Egypt? He isn't trying to run away from his religion. He is just trying to find security in his life.
Perhaps the Torah is teaching us a very profound lesson. The Jew who wishes to stay in servitude is guilty of an act of betrayal that is tantamount to abandoning God. Who is he betraying? Himself. He is giving up on himself, convincing himself that he can't make it as a free man. He is throwing in the towel and ending the dream of a better life. Without hope for tomorrow, this fellow has stopped living. He can never reach his potential and, therefore, he has stopped serving God.
When the Almighty tells us that we are His servants - and His servants alone - the message is that when we view ourselves as servants of God we realize that there is infinite potential to how much we can accomplish in this world. We realize that even though things might look bleak today, tomorrow is a brand new day with brand new potential. When we are servants of God, no matter how dark a place we are in, we never ever stop dreaming.
Every morning we remind ourselves of this idea when we recite this most beautiful blessing: Blessed are You, Hashem, that no matter what I am feeling, no matter what the pitfalls of yesterday were, and whatever might be my fears of the day ahead, I am not a servant of anyone else besides for You, and because of that, I will never stop dreaming.