The door must be standing, attached to the ground.
The ear is singled out for punishment because God does not want people to remain slaves in perpetuity.
The door and the doorpost are singled out as witnesses to the choice of this man to have his ear bored because they were also witnesses to the key moment in the Exodus.
Today’s section begins the discussion of “Canaanite” slaves which is the term the rabbis used for non-Jewish slaves.
Money and deed acquire Canaanite slaves, just as they acquire Hebrew slaves. In addition, Canaanite slaves can be acquired through “possession”, which could also alternatively be translated as “presumption of ownership.” We learned the rules of possession in the third chapter of Bava Batra. Practically this would mean that a slave, who treated a certain person as if that person were his owner, would become the property of that person.
Both Rabbi Meir and the Sages agree that a slave acquires his freedom either through a manumission document or through his freedom being purchased with money. However, they disagree over whether or not the slave may purchase himself back. According to Rabbi Meir a Canaanite slave can never own property. Any property which he would acquire would automatically become the property of his owner, since the owner owns the slave. Therefore, only other people may purchase the slave’s freedom. When it comes to a document, the document must be received by the slave himself.
The Sages disagree on both counts. They hold that a slave may, under certain circumstances, own his own property. This is possible if other people give the slave money with the condition that the owner not take possession of that money. According to the Sages either he or others may purchase his freedom. Similarly, they disagree about the document. The master can write out a manumission document, give it to another person beside the slave and thereby free the slave. Note that the Sages could have stated that “a slave is acquired by documents or money through his own agency or the agency of others.” This would have been a clearer and slightly briefer statement of the sages’ intent. Instead, the mishnah phrases their statement as the opposite of Rabbi Meir’s statement in order to retain the parallelism.
The Torah uses the same word “ahuzah” which means “possession” in the context of the ancestral field as it does in the context of non-Jewish slaves. Therefore, they can both be acquired in the same ways. To recall, hazakah is an act that presumes ownership. We shall get more into this later on.
Unlike the field of inheritance, the non-Jewish slave does not revert to his original owner at the Jubilee. They remain slaves forever.
A baraita adds in “halifin” which is a symbolic transfer usually performed with an object of small value fictitiously exchanged for an object of large value. Slaves may be acquired through halifin.
The tanna of our mishnah does not disagree with this law. He just does not include it because halifin can also be used to acquire movable property. The mishnah lists ways of acquisition that cannot be used to acquire movables.
Meshikhah is a form of acquisition whereby the acquirer basically pulls the acquired object to himself. According to Shmuel, this form of acquisition works for acquiring slaves. But it must be done physically by taking hold of the slave. Simply calling him is not sufficient.
The tanna of the mishnah omitted meshikhah as a means of acquisition because he only taught methods that apply only to land. But the other tanna taught “halifin”—which does apply to goods. So why not also teach meshikhah?
The answer is that the outside tanna only taught methods of acquisition that apply both to land and movable property. This is only halifin. But meshikhah applies only to movable property and not land, and therefore he did not include it.
According to the baraita, one does not acquire a slave by calling him and having him come to him. However, according to another baraita, one that discusses acquiring animals, one can acquire an animal by calling it to him. This baraita describes two ways to acquire an animal—mesirah, which is physically taking control of the animal, and meshikhah, which is causing it to go in a certain direction. Thus there is a contradiction between the baraita concerning animals and the one concerning slaves.
An animal can be acquired by calling it because an animal moves when its owner wills it. It has far less of an independent will than a human. A slave on the other hand is a human being and moves on his own will. Therefore, the slave cannot be acquired by a purchaser simply calling it.
A minor slave will move according to his master’s will. Therefore, he can be acquired by the purchaser calling him to him.
Today’s section discusses acquisition through hazakah.
Hazakah is an act that creates the presumption of ownership. To acquire a slave through hazakah, the slave must act in a manner subservient to the one acquiring him. The baraita therefore describes common things that a slave would do for an owner. Note that most of these are acts of personal servitude. It seems that most slaves served as personal servants and not workers in the field.
At the end of the baraita R. Shimon makes a cryptic statement regarding hazakah.
R. Ashi explains that according to the tanna kamma (the first opinion) if the slave lifts the master, the master acquires the slave, for this is an act of hazakah. The slave shows that he is a slave by lifting the master. But if the master lifts the slave, there is no acquisition.
R. Shimon disagrees. In general when one lifts something up he acquires it. Thus hazakah should not be greater than lifting means that whenever someone lifts something, he acquires it. Even if the master lifts the slave.
If a slave can be acquired by lifting his master, then a female slave should be acquired through intercourse. After all, if she is on the bottom, she lifts him.
The Talmud responds that when a slave lifts his master, the master derives pleasure, the slave does not. During intercourse, both parties derive pleasure. Therefore, this does not imply that the female slave is serving the male partner.
The initial assumption is that women do not enjoy unnatural (anal) intercourse. Therefore, he could acquire her through such a form of intercourse, because she would be doing this just as an act of servitude (again, this is not sanctioned—the Talmud is asking how come this does not work).
There are two answers: 1) Some women do enjoy anal intercourse. 2) The Torah uses the plural in reference to forms of intercourse, thereby implying that they are all treated the same. Just as a female slave cannot be acquired through natural intercourse, she also cannot be acquired through unnatural intercourse.
Today’s section contains a story related to the issue of acquiring a slave through hazakah, an act which creates the presumption of ownership.
According to halakhah, a convert who does not have offspring, has no heirs because when he converts, he cuts off ties with his former family. Thus, the issue at stake here is when R. Judah dies, who inherits his slave. Has Mar Zutra has acquired the slave by having the slave take the shoes to his house?
According to the first opinion, he has. The slave has acted as a slave for Mar Zutra, and therefore, when R. Judah dies, Mar Zutra becomes the slave’s owner.