The extra “heh” allows the word “shoe” to be used for both purposes—to teach laws about what type of shoe may be used and to teach that a yevamah is not released through a get.
Today’s section begins a new mishnah, one concerned with the acquisition and release of slaves. There are different rules for Hebrew slaves than there are for “Canaanite” slaves—non-Jewish slaves. One of the major differences is that all of the biblical verses which discuss a slave’s going free after a certain period of time are considered by the rabbis as referring to Hebrew slaves. This includes Exodus 21:1-11; Leviticus 25:39-44, 47-55; Deuteronomy 15:12-18. Leviticus 25:44-46 refers to Canaanite slaves. Non-Jewish slaves are called “Canaanite” after Genesis 9:25, “Cursed be Canaan; the lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers.” The major difference between the two is that a Hebrew slave goes free automatically after a certain number of years of servitude, whereas a Canaanite slaves works in perpetuity. We should note that the practice of owning Hebrew slaves was probably non-existent, or at least almost non-existent, in the mishnaic/talmudic periods. However, Jews did own non-Jewish slaves. Slavery was a common feature of the Greco-Roman world. The halakhah in general mandates relatively liberal treatment of the slave, but it did not forbid slavery.
Section one: There are two possibilities for how an Israelite can legally be sold as a slave. First of all, he may sell himself into slavery in order to pay off his debts. In such a case he may be sold to a Jew or to a Gentile. The second possibility is that the court may sell him in order to make compensation for something he sold. The mishnah teaches that in these cases the sale must be done either through money or through a sale document.
Section two: The slave goes free after six years of servitude, as is taught in the beginning of chapter 21 of Exodus. If the Jubilee year, which occurs once every fifty year, happens before he serves out his six years, then he goes free earlier (see Leviticus 25:40). If the slave somehow earns enough money to pay back the original sale price, he has the right to do so at any time. For instance if he was sold for 600 denar, and he would have worked for six years, each year is worth 100 denar, and depending upon when he wants to buy himself back, he pays back 100 denar per year left of work. The master cannot refuse to allow the slave to buy himself back. In this way, the Hebrew slave is more like an indentured servant than truly a slave.
Section three: The sale of female Hebrew slaves is even more restricted. According to halakhah there is no such thing as a female adult Hebrew slave. She can only be sold as a minor and when she shows physical signs of reaching maturity (pubic hair) she becomes free automatically, without having to pay back her sale price. In addition, she can also become free in any of the ways that a male Hebrew slave becomes free. It seems that the institute of minor female slaves was probably a way for the father to marry off his daughter without paying a dowry. While this practice seems cruel to us, it may have been a better option for the daughter than some alternatives.
Section four: In Exodus 21:5-6 we learn that a slave who does not wish to regain his freedom must have his ear pierced and then he may work indefinitely for his master. The piercing causes him to be acquired to his master for a period beyond the normal period of servitude. However, he does not work forever and his master’s inheritors do not inherit him. Rather he goes free either at his master’s death or at the Jubilee year, whichever comes first. At this point, even if he wishes to remain a slave he has no such choice.
Leviticus refers to the money the slave was purchased for. Thus it is clear that a slave is purchased through money.
The verse in Leviticus refers to a Jew sold to a non-Jew. A non-Jew according to halakhah always acquires objects through money, and not through any other means. But a Jew can acquire through other means (such as taking possession or a document). So how do we know that a Jew acquires slaves through money?
This is learned from a verse referring to the female slave. If a female slave acquires money she deducts the value of the time served from her purchase money and buys back her own freedom. Thus she was clearly acquired for money.
The verse from Exodus referred only to a female Hebrew slave. But we can extend the same law to a male Hebrew slave through the comparison made in Deuteronomy. Both can be acquired through money.
The verse in Deuteronomy referred to a Jewish slave sold by the court to pay back a debt incurred by stealing. Since the money needs to be recovered it is obvious that he is acquired through money. But what about a Jew who sells himself into slavery? This is learned from the repetition of the word “sakhir” This word, which means “hired laborer,” is used in both Leviticus (one who sells himself) and Deuteronomy (one who is sold by the court). Therefore, the same rules apply to both.
The vav in the phrase “and if …” allows for a law written below to apply to what appeared above. Below is the case of a Jew sold to a non-Jew—he can be acquired through money. And because the two passages are attached by the vav, we can learn that a Jew sold to another Jew can also be acquired for money.
Yesterday we heard of a dispute about whether one can derive laws from comparing one use of the word “sakhir” with the other—some do and some don’t. Today’s sugya discusses who does not derive laws from the repetition of the word.
The baraita here contains a dispute about the laws governing a Hebrew slave. There are two possibilities as to how a Jew could be sold into slavery—he could sell himself into slavery to recover a debt or the court. The rabbis read Leviticus 25:40 as referring to a Jew who sells himself and Deuteronomy 15:18 as a case where the court sells him. Deuteronomy limits the term of servitude to six years, it provides an opportunity to extend the servitude by having a hole bored in his ear and it mandates the owner provide him with a gift upon release. Exodus 21, parallel to Deuteronomy, also allows the master to give him a Canaanite slave-woman as a wife. Leviticus does not contain any of these provisions. To the tanna kamma (the first opinion) this means that the rules governing these two situations are different. To R. Elazar the same rules govern both.
Abaye claims that both parties are willing to derive halakhah by comparing the word “sakhir.” This will mean that for other matters, ones not discussed in this baraita, all rabbis will use this midrashic technique. However, for these particular matters the tanna kamma reads the verse in Deuteronomy as excluding one who sold himself into slavery. He, the one who is sold by the court, receives all of these benefits, but not the one who sold himself into slavery. In other words, the reason for the dispute is not that the rabbis refuse in principle to apply the laws Deuteronomy to the situation referred to in Leviticus. Rather, the dispute is over how to read the verse in Deuteronomy.
This is the typical midrashic chain found at ends of midrashic disputes—how does each tanna derive the halakhah and still make one use of each word. R. Elazar reads the word as excluding an heir from an inheriting a Hebrew slave. The tanna kamma derives that from a second appearance of the word “serve you.” But R. Elazar uses that second appearance of the word for a different purpose.
The discussion of this baraita will continue next week.
This week’s daf continues to discuss the baraita about the difference between a Hebrew slave who sells himself into slavery (Leviticus 25) and the one who is sold into slavery (Deuteronomy 15 and Exodus 21).
The first tanna of the baraita says that only one sold by the court has his ear bored through with an awl should he wish to remain a slave. One who sells himself does not. The tanna kamma reads this out of the verse in Exodus.