Kenneth Cohen

The Canaanite Slave’s Love for Israel

The Torah speaks of the Canaanite Slave, who was a member of many Jewish homes. Unlike the Ger Toshav, known as the “resident stranger,” who observed only seven laws, the עבד כנעני observed the same amount of Mitzvot as a Jewish woman.

Despite the fact that he has undergone circumcision and immersion in a Mikva, he remains in his “slave” status for his entire life, unless he is freed.

Generally, freedom comes because of being mistreated by his master. If he knocks out his eye or tooth, he is freed and becomes a full fledged Jew, just like a גר צדק, a righteous convert. He must now observe all of the Mitzvot of the Torah.

It is interesting to note that the Canaanite Slave has a desire to observe the Mitzvot of the Torah. If he is deprived by his master, he also gains his freedom.

An example of Mitzva deprivation would be taking the slave out of Israel to Chutz L’aretz, to a foreign land. The slave can claim that his Mitzva observance demands that he stays in the Holy Land. He cannot bear living outside the land. His claim would be examined, and if he is believed, he becomes a free man.

It is so interesting that a burning love for Israel can be found even in a Canaanite slave. It has always puzzled me how some Jews feel such a strong attachment to the land, while others do not. This is even true in religious circles, where many observant Jews are content to live in their Jewish ghettos, outside the land. And there are many non-observant Jews who feel such a strong connection to the land.

Rav Kook once said that anyone who does not have this deep attachment, has only a superficial understanding of Judaism. One rabbi said that we must say a prayer every day for being given the gift of the Land of Israel. If slaves could appreciate this gift, so must every Jew everywhere.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at