by Rabbi Avigdor Miller
"AND THESE ARE THE JUDGMENTS THAT YOU SHALL PUT BEFORE THEM." (Shemos 21:1 )
The very first of the laws which were taught to Israel (in addition to the laws of Pesach and of matters that memorialize the Redemption from Egypt) are the laws of the Hebrew servant. Two reasons can be understood for the choice of this law as the first of the mishpatim.
1) Compassion for the lowly or the oppressed is a fundamental Torah-attitude, and it is constantly pointed out in the Torah as one of the chief Attributes of Hashem. Because of this aspect, the laws of the Hebrew slave deserve the first mention.
Even the mishpatim serve as a reminder of the Going Out of Egypt
2) The laws of the Hebrew slave are a memorial of the Going Out of Egypt. The Egyptians called our fathers “Hebrews” and not Israelites (1:16, 2:6, and elsewhere), and the Torah treatment of the “Hebrew slave” is a parallel demonstration of Hashem’s Compassion upon His people in Egypt.
“On the seventh year you shall send him away free from you. And when you send him away free from you, you should not send him away empty-handed. You shall furnish him from your flock and from your grain-pile and from your wine-press” (Devarim 15: 12-14). This is a memorial of the deliverance from the bondage of Egypt: “And when you shall depart, you shall not depart empty-handed,” (3:21), as Hashem had foretold to Abraham: “And afterward they shall go out with great wealth,” (Bereshis 15:14). And the Torah adds: “And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt... therefore I command you this matter today,” (Devarim 15:15).
Thus, even the mishpatim serve as a reminder of the Going Out of Egypt. Just as Israel did not leave Egypt empty-handed, so also does the Hebrew slave not leave empty-handed from his six years of servitude.
3) The eved ivri should correctly be called eved Yisraeli, for in the language of the Jews the word ivri is never used except when speaking to non-Jews. But the Israelite bondsman is called by the name that the Egyptians called our fathers in Egypt. Thus the eved ivri is used by the Torah to commemorate the bondage of Israel in Egypt. — A Nation is Born