The baraita teaches that the slave must twice make the declaration that he wants to remain a slave—at the beginning of his term of servitude and at the end. We will see below how later rabbis interpret this. It seems somewhat absurd that the slave should have to make this statement at the beginning of his term of servitude.
The verse “I will not go out free” is not the only indication that the slave must make his statement at the end of his servitude. We could also derive this from the verse, “I love my …wife and children” which he could not say at the very beginning of his servitude.
Rava interprets beginning and end to be referring to a very small window. He must make his statement some time before he begins to do his last perutah’s worth of work. At this time he already could have a wife and kids. He must also reiterate the statement later on, while he is doing his last perutah’s worth of work.
Today’s section contains a baraita that severely limits the ability of the slave to have his ear bored and thereby remain a slave for a longer period of time. We can sense that the rabbis wanted to write this law out of existence. They assumedly did not want Jews remaining slaves for such a long period of time. Indeed, they probably did not want Jews becoming slaves at all.
For the slave to be bored, he must fulfill all of the conditions in his statement. These include that the master has a “house”—meaning a wife and kids. And that he (the slave himself) have a wife and kids.
The master must love the slave for him to be bored. This is one way in which the rabbis interpret the words “because it goes well for him with you.”
Of course, the slave must also love the master. That is simply the simple reading of the verses.
For the slave to be bored, both he and his master must be healthy. This is another restrictive interpretation that they put on “because he is well with you.”
The Torah says “because he is well with you.” If we focus on the “with you” section, then all that matters is that both are either well or unwell. But if we focus on “he is well” than if both are unwell, he cannot be bored. There is no answer to this question.
Several more baraitot about how much support the master must offer his Hebrew slave.
A master must share the material benefits he enjoys with his Hebrew slave. Clearly, owning a Hebrew slave would be burdensome.
The Torah says that when the slave goes free, his children go free with him. This can refer only to children born to the Jew before he became a slave, for we already know from Exodus that those born to him in servitude (children of the Canaanite slave given to him) do not go free. But the problem is that the children were not sold. Only the father was. So why state that they go free? To solve this problem R. Shimon rules that the master is responsible for the upkeep of the children while the father is a slave. Once the slave goes free, the master is no longer responsible for them. This would be yet another way the rabbis write this law out of existence—why would anyone take on the responsibility of maintaining not only the slave but also his children? It would be far cheaper to hire a servant.
The same rule applies to his wife. Again, this can only refer to a wife he married before he was a servant. The Canaanite wife given to the Hebrew slave does not go free with him.
The Torah needed to teach us that the master must support the children, because the children cannot work to earn a living. It needed to teach us that he must support the wife because it would not be seemly for a woman to go begging.
Today’s section discusses the door on which the slave’s ear is bored. Again, we can see just how opposed the rabbis were to the entire institution of Hebrew slavery, and especially permanent Hebrew slavery.
The Talmud clarifies how the boring is to be done. The master is not to put a hole in the ear and then another one through the door. Rather, he puts the slave’s ear up to the door and then he puts a hole in the ear until it gets to the door. Seems like a smart way of doing this!