Others interpret the story to refer to a minor slave. If a convert dies, his adult slaves go free according to all opinions. According to Abba Shaul, minors do not become free. Thus Mar Zutra did not have to send the slave to do an errand for him. He would have remained a slave in any case, and Mar Zutra could have just taken him as a slave after R. Judah’s death.
According to R. Meir, other people can buy a slave’s freedom, but the slave himself cannot. Our section explores this opinion.
According to R. Meir, others may buy the slave’s freedom—they may pay to set him free. So the question is what are the circumstances? The first possibility is that the slave has not consented to be set free. But this should not work for R. Meir holds that it is not to the slave’s advantage to go free. And we also know that a person cannot cause disadvantage to another without his consent. Therefore this cannot refer to a case where the slave has not consented to be set free.
Rather, R. Meir must refer to a case where the slave consented to being set free. And nevertheless, he cannot free himself. Others must buy his freedom. Here we learn that a slave cannot acquire any property. As soon as he does, it becomes the property of his master.
R. Meir goes on to say that if he is going free by document, he must accept the document himself. Others cannot accept it on his behalf. But if he is consenting to going free, then why can’t others accet a document to set him free?
The Talmud now introduces a solution that it immediately rejects. We might have thought that a slave can acquire himself through a deed even through his own agency, and not exclusively through his own agency. The innovation here would be that his freedom and his ability to acquire arrive at the same moment, such that at the same moment he is set free, he is also able to acquire the document. The problem is that there is a baraita in which R. Meir explicitly states that a slave acquires himself by document only through his own agency, not if the document is accepted by others.
Thus we now no longer have an acceptable situation for the Mishnah. If the slave did not consent, then why can others set him free by paying for his freedom? And if he did consent, then why can’t others accept a document of manumission on his behalf?
Abaye said that the mishnah refers to a case where the slave does not consent. Since a slave can be bought against his will, he can also be sold against his will.
If a slave can be freed against his will through money, then why not also through a document accepted by others? Just as he is bought against his will with a document, so he can also be set free against his will with a document.
The answer is that these are different documents. And if you argue that the money used to acquire him is also different from the money used to purchase his freedom, we can answer that money is money. It is all stamped the same way.
Rava offers a different reason for why R. Meir holds that a slave can be set free by money given by others but not by a document accepted by others. The slave goes free when his master receives the money. It is not that others are causing him disadvantage. But if the slave goes free by document he goes free when the others accept the document. Therefore, they are causing him detriment, and one may not cause detriment to another without his consent.
Today’s section continues to deal with who accepts the money and document when a Canaanite slave goes free.
According to the rabbis, a Canaanite slave can buy his own freedom but others cannot buy his freedom. But why not? After all, even if this is done without his knowledge, the rabbis still hold that it is to the slave’s advantage to go free, and one can cause an advantage to a person without his knowledge. So why can’t they accept the money to set him free?
We might have thought, as we tried to propose in yesterday’s section, that when it says that he may free himself it means “even through his own agency,” and then say that what this teaches us is that his right to acquire money and his freedom come simultaneously. Thus he can acquire the money to use to buy himself free. But the problem is that the end of this clause in the mishnah teaches that when it comes to the document, the slave can become free by a document accepted by others, but not by one that he himself accepts. The problem is that we hold that his freedom and his ability to accept a document also come simultaneously. This means that he should be able to accept his own deed of emancipation.
If we try to solve this last problem by positing that the slave can be redeemed even when others accept the document on his behalf, and also when he accepts the document, and that this mishnah teaches that it is to the slave’s advantage to go free (and thus others can receive his document), then we encounter the problem that both clauses say the same thing. So why teach them as independent clauses?
In yesterday’s section we learned that R. Shimon be Elazar holds that if the slave goes free by a document of emancipation, it must be accepted by others. The slave cannot accept it himself. Here Rabbah explains why.
R. Shimon b. Elazar derives his law by connecting the word “lah” (to her) found in Leviticus 19:20 in the context of a female slave going free with the word “lah” in the context of divorce in Deuteronomy 24:3. When it comes to divorce, the woman must take the get into a domain that is hers (this would include her hand). The husband can also put in onto property that belongs to her. But it must leave his property. So too, when it comes to a slave going free, the slave must take the domain into property that does not belong to the master. This would preclude accepting the deed of emancipation himself.
Rabbah continues to discuss the opinion of R. Shimon b. Elazar who holds that a Caananite slave cannot receive his own deed of emancipation.
In yesterday’s section we saw that R. Shimon b. Elazar derives the laws of a slave going free from the case of a woman being divorced. So now we have to ask whether a slave, like a woman being a divorced, can appoint an agent to receive his deed of emancipation.
Rabbah asks the question, and then answers it himself. Like a woman, he can.