By Rabbi Nosson Greenberg
In this week’s parsha we learn of of Klal Yisroel‘s obligation to bail out a fellow Yid who has sold himself to various non-jewish masters. One of those masters are referred to as “Le’aiker [mishpachas ger].” (Vayikra 25,47) Chazal (Kiddushin 20b) explain that this means he has sold himself as a slave whose specific job description is maintenance of an idol. Tosfos (Kiddushin 20a) adds that an idol is called an “Aiker” because sofah lee’aker – [this idol] will eventually be uprooted and destroyed. The question that is asked by several meforshim is why specifically with this mention of an idol does the Torah come up with a new name for it?
Perhaps we can suggest the following answer. This man that sells himself to go and work for an idol has really sunk to a new low. The fact is Chazal tell us (ibid) that he has no-one else to blame but himself. He started this downward spiral some time earlier when he got involved with the illegal buying and selling of Shemitta produce. One thing led to another and through ignoring a series of lighter punishments from Hashem that should have caused him to stop, evaluate, and mend his ways, he now finds himself shlepping water and chopping wood for some nonentity. He is an embarrassment to his family and his religion. And chances are his co-religionists think of him as a nonentity, a spiritual has-been. Definitely not someone worth the money and effort to assist. And chas ve’sholom their disgust will lead them to yi’ush – giving up hope of ever being able to lift him out of his personal quagmire and to slowly rehabilitate him. And they will let him disappear into oblivion. This is where the Ribono Shel Olam steps in. He subtly tells Klal Yisroel, do not look at this yid as if he is involved with an “avodah zara” – a foreign way of life, rather he is associated with a “sofah lee’aker” – a short term problem. There is yet hope, give him another chance, for his situation can improve. With your effort and with Siyata Dish’maya says Hashem, his current matzav can very well be one of sofah lee’aker, uprooted and destroyed.
Let us take this thought to another level. One of the family members mentioned by the Torah who have an obligation to redeem this slave is a “ben dodo” – a cousin. The Ba’al Haturim comments that ben dodo can be anagrammed to read “ben Dovid” – a reference to Moshiach. The message here is clear. Just as yi’ush is unacceptable towards a Yid enslaved in a unsavory job, so too Moshiach will not give up on us from assisting in our redemption. This is the clarion call as we wade through the morass of golus, “Sofa lee’aker!!”
Rabbi Nosson Greenberg is rov of Khal Machzikei Torah of Far Rockaway, N.Y., and maggid shiur at Yeshiva of Far Rockaway.