R’ Shammai should give his readers the “rest of the story” about selling Jewish daughters into slavery. As the Rambam explains, first of all, the man had to be absolutely destitute, penniless. This means the child herself was starving, with no hope for a normal future. Second, her service would last at most from ages 6 until 12, with seven possible ways to shorten it. By the time she reached physical and social maturity, she was free forever. Meanwhile, she gets to spend her formative years in a more affluent household, with a broader perspective on what her life could be, and with the option to marry into the family. Her father, by the way, received an infusion of funds that might give him a fresh start. What an astonishing foreshadowing of the foster family concept that the rest of society came to only in the last century. Not a bad system for its day – worked out by men. The misunderstanding of the institution of “Female servitude” has been the source for much improper maligning of the Torah’s values.

[Shammai Engelmayer responds: I thank Rabbi Yablok for making my point even stronger. As I wrote in the March 2 column, “Throughout the Torah, at least as I read it, we see the law striving to achieve equality for women….” As for the claim that men worked out this “foster care system,” we disagree slightly. Men worked out the details, but the law, as readers know I believe, comes from God.]