This week’s daf begins by discussing a source for the rule that a Jewish female slave is acquired by a document.
Ulla derives the law that a maidservant is acquired by a document from the fact that the two are mentioned in the same verse. Just as a wife is acquired in marriage by a document, so too is a female slave.
When a woman is married, the husband, the one making the acquisition, writes the document. If the master writes the document to acquire the female slave, then the analogy makes sense. But according to R. Hisda, the father who is selling his daughter into slavery writes the document. This means that they are not analogous—in marriage the acquirer writes, and in slavery the seller writes.
R. Aha b. Ya’akov derives this halakhah from a precise reading of the verse. A female slave goes free in a unique way, but she is acquired the same way all slaves are—by document.
A non-Jewish slave can be acquired through hazakah. Hazakah, which means presumption of ownership, is achieved when a slave performs a labor for a master that would be typical only of a slave. So why not say that just as slaves are acquired by hazakah, so too are Jewish female slaves?
The answer is that the rabbis read Leviticus 25:46 as limiting acquisition by hazakah to non-Jewish slaves.
The Talmud continues to push back—why not say that Leviticus 25 implies that only non-Jewish slaves are acquired by document, not Jewish female slaves?
But then we’d still need to account for the verse that distinguishes how female Jewish slaves go free and how non-Jewish slaves go free. This verse implied that they can all be acquired in the same way. So we have one verse that draws a distinction between them and one that compares them (in terms of acquisition).
So why say that the distinction is made in acquisition through hazakah and that they are both acquired by a document? Why not the opposite?
The answer is that a document has greater power since it is used for divorce.
But still, we could argue, that hazakah has greater power because it can be used to acquire the property of a convert who dies without heirs.
Still, we do not find a case where hazakah (possession) acquires in a case of marriage. And since acquisition of a female slave is somewhat similar to marriage, we can conclude that it does not work in this case. We could also prove that the comparison is only made with regard to rules connected to marriage because the very next verse in Exodus to marriage.
[I realize, this is complicated. Kol Hakavod if you made it through!]
Since R. Huna holds that the master writes the document, he can derive that a female slave is acquired by a document without using verse “she shall not go out as male slaves do.” Therefore, he can use this verse to teach that she does not go free if her master causes her to lose a limb. Only non-Jewish slaves go free under these circumstances.
R. Hisda can learn both rules—that she is acquired as are non-Jewish slaves and that she does not go free at loss of limb as do male slaves—from this one verse since the verse has an extra word--“go out.”
Today’s section discusses how a Hebrew slave goes free.
The Mishnah teaches that which is stated explicitly in the Torah.
A slave may also go free by essentially buying himself back. This is done by dividing the purchase money into the number of years of acquisition. Then the amount the person has worked is reduced, the slave pays back the rest and goes free.
A baraita teaches that a slave goes free either by money, money’s equivalent or a document. The first two are easy to understand and are anchored in the verse. But what about the document? What kind of a document is this? If it is just an IOU, then it is equivalent to money. And seemingly it should not be a document of manumission, because we would think that a slave does not really need a document of manumission. It should be enough that the master simply tells him to go free.
This leads Rava to say that the slave actually belongs bodily to his master and cannot go free without a document of manumission. An oral declaration is not enough.
Today’s daf begins to discuss the female Jewish slave. The laws for this type of slave are found in Exodus 21:7-11.
A female Jewish slave goes free when she hits puberty. But a girl does not automatically leave her father’s authority at puberty—she must also be at least 12 years old. So Resh Lakish argues that it is easier to leave the master’s authority than to leave her father’s authority. And if she leaves her father’s authority upon her father’s death (meaning she can now keep her own handiwork), so too she must leave her master’s authority upon her father’s death, even though she is no longer living with her father.
If the female slave goes out at her father’s death, then the mishnah should have listed it.
The Talmud resolves R. Hoshaya’s difficulty by saying that the mishnah simply omitted one way a female slave goes free.
The problem is that according to talmudic thinking, the mishnah would not just omit one detail—it must omit at least two.
The first suggestion as to the other detail it omits is the death of the master. But the problem with this suggestion is that a male slave also goes out at the death of his master. So this is not a way in which a female slave goes out that a male slave does not.
So now we are back to the difficulty—why doesn’t the mishnah teach that a female slave goes free at her father’s death.
The answer is that her father’s death can happen at any time, and the mishnah only teaches things that have a fixed time, such as the end of the six years or the Jubilee, or a fixed amount, her purchase price.
“Signs” of puberty are also not fixed and yet the mishnah taught that the female slave does go free at that point.
The answer is that while there is no latest date at which a sign can appear, there is an earliest date. If signs of puberty appear too early, they are not considered halakhically speaking to be signs of puberty.
There is a dispute about when a sign of puberty is considered to be a “sign” or just a “mole.” But all agree that after thirteen, any sign that appears on a boy is a sign of puberty.