|The Profundities of Torah: Re’eh Restoring Dignity|
|Written by HaRav Yochanan Zweig|
After six years of servitude, the Torah requires that the Jewish slave be set free. Additionally, he should not go out empty-handed. Rather, his master should furnish him with gifts of significant value. What is the rationale behind obligating a person to give a gift? Clearly, this is not his compensation, for the Torah requires that the slave be paid in full up front.
When Avraham returned from Egypt, the Torah records that he went "according to his travels".1 Chazal teach that Avraham retraced the path which he had taken during his descent to Egypt, so that he would be able to lodge at the same inns where he stayed on his way down.2 What is the notion of a person returning to an establishment which he has previously patronized?
If we analyze the modern-day concept of tipping, we can gain some insight to assist in answering the aforementioned questions. Why is it the accepted practice to tip for certain services, while for others it is not? For example, if a person checks in his luggage curbside, he leaves a tip with the porter. However, if he checks his luggage in at the counter, he does not tip the attendant. Similarly, one tips a barber, but not a cashier. The reason is as follows: When someone does a personal service for us, to a certain extent, he has been demeaned. It is for personal service, therefore, that we tip. The tip is the means by which we restore dignity to the person serving us; it shows our appreciation for what he has done for us.
An innkeeper offers round-the-clock personal service to his guests. Avraham Avinu is teaching us that the most effective way to restore the innkeeper's dignity is to continue to patronize his establishment. This is the ultimate show of appreciation. The Torah requires that we give parting gifts to the Jewish slave, since, for six years he has been at our beck and call, giving us the highest level of personal service that one Jew can give another. We are obligated, therefore, to restore his dignity.
It is now apparent why the Torah uses what appears to be a very difficult verb for the giving of a gift. Instead of the more common verb used for giving, "titein", the Torah uses "ha'aneik", which is not found anywhere else in the Torah in that form. Rashi explains that the word comes from the noun "anaka", which means jewelry worn around the neck. When a person wears jewelry, he feels elevated. It gives him a sense of dignity. This is the function of the gift which is given to the Jewish slave. We are attempting to restore the dignity that was lost by his six years of personal service.
The Tzitz Eliezer rules that if a person has the option of either walking or driving to shul (not on Shabbos), it is a greater mitzva for him to walk, since he is investing more effort in the fulfillment of the mitzva. If he lives a significant distance from the shul and is unable to walk, he should park a short distance away from the shul's entrance, thereby displaying his willingness to invest effort in the fulfillment of the mitzva