Are you floundering in a loveless marriage just for the sake of your kids? Is your dead-end job getting you down, but you can‎’t resign because you need the paycheck? Are you addicted to pain medication or self-medicating with alcohol? Or maybe your problems are less exciting; you’re in a rut, you’re in a slump and you just can’t be bothered getting out of bed in the morning.

Admit it, you’re a slave.

You’reThis is not where you expected to be at your age enslaved to your circumstances and captive to your situation. The path behind you is littered with bad choices and when you try to move forward all you do is replicate the mistakes of your past.

This is not where you expected to be at your age. When you were younger you expected to shine. You were going to start strong and pick up steam. You were going to invest in yourself and live up to your potential. You were going to be lucky in love and you fully anticipated authoring a self-help book that others would queue up to buy.

But now you’re a slave.

These Are the Laws

In last week’s Torah portion we read a description of receiving the Torah and the Ten Commandments at Sinai, and this week’s portion enumerates a number of the mitzvot given on the mountain. Of particular interest is the first mitzvah in this week’s section, the laws of a master’s responsibilities towards his Jewish slave.

When a thief is caught but unable to refund that which he stole, he may have no other option but to sell himself into slavery to repay his debts. He signs away his liberty, but the master who buys him is forbidden from abusing his new acquisition and has accepted the legal, moral, and ethical responsibility to care and provide for his slave.

It may seem somewhat incongruous that this mitzvah comes first. We’re talking about a thief and a slave, a man who can’t keep his hands to himself and who is obviously such a low-life that he has no friends or relatives who are willing to pay his fine to help keep him out of jail. Why, of all the profound and weighty issues discussed in this week’s parshah, do these laws assume pride of place?

ButThe real you, right now, is a slave that’s the point. When you started off life you had all the options in front of you. You wanted to be rich and famous; you expected to be holy and spiritual. You were going to star, you were going to soar. But that’s not the life you actually ended up with. The real you, right now, is a slave.

You can dither and deny, you can refuse to engage until the perfect job, perfect spouse, and perfect life presents, or you can accept reality and know that even where you are right now, G‑d loves you, accepts you, and expects you to be treated with kindness and consideration.

By starting the parshah with the laws of not mistreating slaves, G‑d is instructing us, even during the bad times, to accept ourselves and to recognize that we are still worthy of His love. No matter our flaws and failings, we deserve to be treated with courtesy and compassion, until we can find a way out of our servitude and get on with the rest of the parshah.