Daf Yomi Kesubos 61
After the giving of the Torah, the first commandment we find in the portion of Mishpatim, which deals with civil and criminal law, is the mitzvah of how to deal with slaves. After leaving Egypt, it was very important for the Torah to contrast the way we were treated in slavery with the right way to treat other human beings, no matter their status. In fact, our Sages famously declared, ‘One who acquires a slave acquires a master!’ so great are the Torah’s demands concerning the proper treatment of servants.
Rav Yitzchak bar Chanania quoted Rav Huna: We may enjoy all foods in the presence of the waiter, except for meat and wine.
Avuha bar Ihi and Minyamin bar Ihi were kind to their waiters: One would offer his waiter a taste of each dish; the other, however, would only offer a taste of one dish. The former merited to have Elijah talk to him; but to the latter, Elijah did not appear.
How do we treat those who work for us? Whether they’re our professional employees or domestic help, we must never forget that they are equal human beings created in the image of G-d. They have feelings and needs and one must always be sensitive to them and mindful of their spirit.
Sometimes we reason to ourselves: Well, compared to where they came from, life is great. Back in their home country, they barely had enough to feed their families, now they enjoy western life, they get the weekends off, and they even have extra money to send back home in the form of remittances. They should be more than grateful enough for what I have given them!
That’s not an acceptable attitude. Listen to the sage teachings of the Talmud: You are not even allowed to make their mouth water while they’re serving you. You must feed them first! That’s right, your domestic help gets to eat lunch before you! They are holy human beings and must be treated with the utmost dignity and sensitivity.
It’s true that G-d did not grant everyone the same lot in life, but that’s no excuse to lord it over anyone else. On the contrary, the Almighty is testing us to see if we are able to treat all His children with dignity and generosity, even if they are not as well off as us. You may have been blessed with a more favourable station in life than the vast majority of the world’s population, but that’s no reason to treat anyone less fortunate with disdain or contempt.
Never take your good fortune for granted. ‘The L-rd giveth, the L-rd taketh away.’ You must be forever grateful for His bounty and never feel that you are better than the next person who has not been similarly showered with revealed Heavenly blessing. His test may be to maintain his faith through the hardships of life; your test is, will you treat him with the same honour you would a well-to-do individual?
Every human being is equal in the eyes of the Almighty. Always make sure that you are sensitive to the needs and feelings of those less fortunate than you. May you merit treating every person with the same honour and love that their Father in Heaven feels for them!