Ransoming captives comes before feeding or clothing the poor. There is no act of charity more meritorious than ransoming captives; therefore, money collected for any worthy purpose whatsoever may be used as ransom, even if originally collected for the erection of a Synagogue. And further: even if the building materials have already been bought and the beams squared (which makes it a grave offense to sell them for any other purpose) nevertheless, it is permitted to sell them to raise a ransom. However, if the structure is already erected it should not be sold. (Still, if one donates a Sela to Charity without specification, ransoming is not to be understood in the general term of charity, and the Sela should not be used for this purpose without the knowledge of the members of the community.)
He who shuts his eyes against the ransoming of captives transgresses the negative precepts, "Thou shalt not harden thy heart",2Deut. 15:7. and, "[Thou shalt not] shut thy hand";2Deut. 15:7. also this, "Neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbor",3Lev. 19:16. and this, "He shall not rule with rigor over him in thy sight";1Lev. 25:53. and he neglects the positive precepts, "Thou shalt surely open thy hand unto him",2Dent. 15:8. and, "that thy brother may live with thee,"3Lev. 25:36. The Hebrew text permits the rendition “Let thy brother live,” etc. and, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself"4Lev. 19:18. and, "Deliver them that are carried away unto death."5Prov. 24:11.
Every moment that one delays unnecessarily the ransoming of a captive, it is as if he were to shed blood.
Captives are not to be ransomed at an unreasonable cost, for the safety of society; otherwise, the enemies would exert every effort to capture victims. But a man may ransom himself at any price. So also, a scholar should be ransomed at a greater price, or even a student who gives promise of becoming a great scholar. (As to whether one's wife is considered "another" or "one's self," see Eben Ha-Ezer,6Eben Ha-Ezer is the fourth part of this code of Shulhan Arukh, and deals with laws pertaining to woman. 78.)
Captives should not be aided to escape, for the sake of public safety; lest the enemies treat the captives with greater severity and confine them under closer custody.
He who sells himself to heathens, or who borrowed from them and is held by them for non-payment, should be ransomed the first time and the second time, but not if it happens a third time. But his children should be ransomed after the father's death. However, if his life is in danger, he must be ransomed immediately, no matter how many times it has happened before. (But one who is an apostate with regard to even one precept, as, for instance, if he eats meat not slaughtered according to ritual in a spirit of defiance, it is forbidden to ransom him.) (See Art. 251.)
A slave who is made captive, is ransomed like a captive Israelite, since he is regarded as a free-man after he takes the required ritual bath and assumes the obligations of certain Jewish laws.
A woman is redeemed before a man; but where pederasty is common, the man is given precedence. (If both are willing to drown, the man is rescued first.)
If he and his father and his teacher are captives, he himself comes before his teacher; and his teacher before his father; but his mother comes before all.
If a man and his wife are captured, the wife is ransomed first, and Court may seize his property to ransom her; and even if he protests, "Do not ransom her with my property," no attention is paid to him.
If a captive has property but does not wish to ransom himself, his ransom is paid against his will.
A father is obliged to ransom his son, if the father has the means and the son has not.