The Talmud continues to explicate the verses about setting a slave free. To facilitate understanding, I am copying the verses here (Deuteronomy 15:12-14):
If a fellow Hebrew, man or woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall set him free.
When you set him free, do not let him go empty-handed:
Furnish him out of the flock, threshing floor, and vat, with which the LORD your God has blessed you.
According to the first opinion, even if the master’s house has not prospered while the slave was serving, the master must still grant him a gift. If the house was blessed, the master should (but not must) give him more. If the house was not blessed, there is still a minimal amount.
R. Elazar b. Azariah says the master must give him only if the house was blessed. R. Elazar ben Azariah does not read anything into the word “you shall grant him.” This is simply the only way the Torah could express the idea that if the house was blessed on his behalf, the master should grant him a gift.
This baraita discusses whether a Hebrew slave continue to serve after their master’s death. The source for these halakhot will be explained below.
The baraita reads Deuteronomy 15:12 as teaching that the slave works for the one who bought him, but not his heir. In this context, the heir referred to must be someone besides the son, such as a brother or daughter. Exodus 21:2, where the word “you” is not found, is read as teaching that he does work for the son should the master die.
Why should the slave be bequeathed to the son but not to the brother or any other heir? The first answer is that there is a tie between the father and so that does not exist for other heirs. A father can designate a female Hebrew slave to marry his son. And if a son redeems a consecrated ancestral field owned by his father, then the field returns to his possession at the Jubilee.
The Talmud argues that the brother also has a special relationship with the father—should a man die without children, his brother performs yibum with his wife.
This argument is refuted—yibum happens only if there is no son (or offspring). But if there is a son, then there is no yibum. Thus we see that son’s relationship is primary.
We don’t even need to point out that if there is a son, there is no yibum. Even without this counterargument, the son is preferable because he has two points in his favor while the brother has only one.
The author of the baraita also learns the halakhah that the son takes his father’s place in redeeming the ancestral field from the argument against yibum—is there yibum when there is a son? Thus we can see that we need that argument to refute the counterargument that a brother, or another heir, can inherit the slave. Only a son inherits the slave....
This section continues to explicate the baraita about inheriting a slave.
Deuteronomy 15:17 compares a slave who had his ear bored (meaning he wanted to continue to serve his master) with a female slave. Just as the former does not work for the son or daughter (we will learn this below) so too a female slave does not.
The verse in Deuteronomy teaches that a male and female slave are treated the same, whereas the verse in Exodus is read as distinguishing between the two. So in what way are they the same and how are they different?
Both types of slaves are granted a gift when going free. But only a male slave can extend his servitude by having his ear bored. A female slave has no such option.
The problem the Talmud has is that this verse, “Do the same with your female slave” is used twice, once to teach that she receives a gift and once to teach that she does not serve the master’s son.
The word “do” is extra, thus allowing us to read both halakhot into the verse.
The Talmud continues to discuss the baraita that listed which types of slaves are bequeathed as an inheritance and which are not.
The Torah says that the slave who has his ear bored shall serve the master forever—he serves the master but if the master dies he goes free. He does not serve the master’s children.
Leviticus 25:50 refers to a Jew sold to a non-Jew. When being redeemed the Torah refers to a negotiation with the Jew’s purchaser. From here we can conclude that only the purchaser can own the slave, and not one of his children. The slave goes free if his/her master dies.
The above baraita implies that a non-Jew inherits from his father. That is why the baraita had to say that the son/daughter does not inherit the slave. They do inherit, just not this slave. [We should note that we do at times find rabbis legislating laws for non-Jews even though it is quite clear that non-Jews do not obey rabbinic law].
When a non-Jew converts to Judaism, he no longer inherits from his parents from biblical law. But he does inherit from them from rabbinic law. Below is proof.
A Jew cannot derive benefit from idols or non-Jewish wine. Therefore, once the convert actually takes possession of his father’s inheritance, it would be prohibited to exchange them for other parts of the inheritance. This would be considered deriving benefit. But he can exchange them before he takes possession because he does not yet own them. This proves that the convert does not inherit from his non-Jewish father from biblical law, because if he did, then as soon as his father died the son would be considered as if he owned the idols or wine and he would not be able to exchange them.
The rabbis decreed that the convert should inherit from his non-Jewish father. They feared that if he did not do so, he might return to being a non-Jew just so he could claim his inheritance.
By contrasting inheritance with partnership the baraita implies that inheritance is not considered possession, and therefore the convert can exchange the idols or wine for permitted property.
A non-Jew does not inherit from his father, should his father have converted. Similarly, a convert does not inherit from his father if both of them have converted. The issue here is that the rabbis think of conversion as a rebirth of sorts—one loses all ties with one’s previous family. Therefore, if the laws of inheritance applied, it would be as if conversion is not actually a rebirth.
This is illustrated by a mishnah in Sheviit. Normally, if one’s creditor dies, one must repay his inheritors. But not if they are all converts. Indeed, the rabbis were not happy with one who did so.
A different baraita states that the sages were pleased with one who repays the converts converted children. [Note that the simple reading of these two sources is that there was some dispute over the matter. Some rabbis thought that it is always good to pay one’s debts. Other rabbis feared that by repaying the converted children, there would not be recognition that conversion is like rebirth. In other words, which is more important, money or ideology?]
The Talmud, as it usually does, harmonizes the two sources. If the child was conceived and born before the father and the children converted, then the sages did not want the borrower to repay the debt. But if the child was conceived, and then the parents converted, while the child still does not inherit from his parents, the rabbis were pleased with one who repaid the debt.