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You might have noticed I've been a little absent from your weekly emails lately. It's not just so that you get to see much more of Rabbi Jordan's joyous face. It's also because I've been working on my dissertation: 30,000 words of rabbinic commentary to let me become a real rabbi.

I'm looking at what life was like for ordinary people in Ancient Israel.

At school, I learnt so much about Kings and Queens and Generals, but ordinary people were almost non-existent. Based on the curriculum, I'd never have known there were Jews in England for centuries, or that poor people had their own interesting lives and culture.

The Torah gives us snippets of insights to what peoples lives were like. One comes in this week's parashah, Mishpatim. This contains the laws on how to treat slaves. It tells us what their lives were like, how they could be freed, and why they might choose to stay and be with the rest of their slave family.

Very few ancient Israelites were landowners. By definition, only one was ever king. Most of our ancestors would have been subsistence farmers, peasants, or indentured servants. So, as we read the Torah this week, take a moment to imagine how they felt.

We may never know what the dreams or daily lives of ancient Israelite slaves were like. But by paying attention to the places where they are mentioned, we can give them honour and new life today.

Now all I've got to do is turn that into 30,000 words!

Shabbat Shalom

Student Rabbi Lev