עובד כוכבים גופא לא קני ליה מאי דקני ליה הוא דמקני ליה לישראל וכיון דקדם וטבל לשם בן חורין אפקעיה לשעבודיה
His previous gentile owner did not have ownership of the slave’s body, since a gentile is unable to have ownership of another’s body; rather, he had rights to only the slave’s labor. And only that which he owned in him was he able to sell to the Jew. Therefore, before immersion, the Jew had rights to only the slave’s labor, but not ownership of his body, and therefore, once the slave preempted his owner and immersed for the sake of conversion to make him a freeman, he abrogates his master’s lien upon him.
כדרבא דאמר רבא הקדש חמץ ושחרור מפקיעין מידי שעבוד
The Gemara notes: This explanation is in accordance with the opinion of Rava, as Rava said: Consecration of an item to the Temple, the prohibition of leavened bread taking effect upon a leavened food, and the emancipation of a slave abrogate any lien that exists upon them.
מתיב רב חסדא מעשה בבלוריא הגיורת שקדמו עבדיה וטבלו לפניה ובא מעשה לפני חכמים ואמרו קנו עצמן בני חורין לפניה אין לאחריה לא
Rav Ḥisda raised an objection from a baraita: There was an incident involving Beloreya the female convert in which her slaves preempted her and immersed before her own immersion for her own conversion. And the details of the incident came before the Sages, and they said: The slaves acquired themselves and became freemen. Rav Ḥisda explains how the baraita poses a challenge: The baraita implies that only because the slaves immersed before her, while she was still a gentile, that yes, they became freemen; however, had they immersed after her, i.e., after she had already converted, then no, they would not have become freemen. The reason for this is presumably that upon her conversion she attains the rights to her slaves’ bodies, and therefore their immersion for the sake of becoming freemen would be ineffective. However, this contradicts the Gemara’s explanation above that when a Jew gains ownership of a slave from a gentile, he has a right to only the slave’s labor.
אמר רבא לפניה בין בסתם בין במפורש לאחריה במפורש אין בסתם לא
To resolve the challenge Rava said: When the baraita says that because they immersed before her they acquired themselves, that is whether they immersed without a specified intention or whether they immersed with explicit intention to convert and become freemen. However, had they immersed after her, if they did so with explicit intention to convert, then yes, the immersion would achieve that end, but if they did so without a specified intention, then no, their immersion would, by default, be considered for the sake of slavery and they would not become free.
אמר רב אויא לא שנו אלא בלוקח מן העובד כוכבים אבל עובד כוכבים גופיה קני
Rav Avya said: They taught that one acquires only the rights to the slave’s labor only with regard to a Jew who purchased a slave from a gentile slave owner, but if a gentile sold his own body as a slave directly to a Jew, then the Jew acquires his body.
דכתיב (ויקרא כה, מה) וגם מבני התושבים הגרים עמכם מהם תקנו אתם קונים מהם ולא הם קונים מכם ולא הם קונים זה מזה
As it is written: “Moreover, of the children of the strangers that sojourn among you, of them you may acquire” (Leviticus 25:45). The verse states only that you, i.e., Jews, can acquire a slave from them, i.e., a gentile slave, but they cannot acquire a slave from you, i.e., a Jewish slave, and they cannot acquire a slave from one another.
ולא הם קונים מכם למאי אילימא למעשה ידיו אטו עובד כוכבים לא קני ליה לישראל למעשה ידיו והכתיב (ויקרא כה, מז) או לעקר משפחת גר ואמר מר משפחת גר זה העובד כוכבים אלא לאו לגופיה וקאמר רחמנא אתם קונין מהם אפילו גופיה
When it is derived that: But they cannot acquire slaves from you, to what type of acquisition is it referring? If we say it is for his labor, is that to say that a gentile cannot acquire a Jew for his labor? Isn’t it written: “And if a stranger who is a settler with you becomes rich, and your brother becomes poor beside him, and he sells himself to the stranger who is a settler with you, or to the offshoot of a stranger’s family” (Leviticus 25:47), and the Master said in explanation of the phrase “a stranger’s family” that this is referring to a gentile. If so, the verse explicitly states that a Jew can sell himself as a slave to a gentile. Rather, is it not that the reference is to selling his body, and the Merciful One states that you, i.e., Jews, can acquire a slave from them, which means even his body. Accordingly the verse indicates that a Jew can acquire a gentile slave’s body, but a gentile is unable to acquire ownership of another’s body, even that of another gentile.
פריך רב אחא אימא בכספא ובטבילה קשיא
Rav Aḥa refutes Rav Avya’s explanation: Say that the verse is referring to acquiring a gentile slave by both purchasing him with money and then by immersing him for the purpose of slavery, and only in that case does it teach that a Jew acquires the gentile slave’s body. However, until he has been immersed the acquisition is not fully complete, and therefore if the slave immerses himself with the intention to become free, then his immersion would achieve that end. The Gemara concedes: This is difficult.
אמר שמואל וצריך לתקפו במים
Shmuel said: And if one wishes to ensure that one’s slave does not declare the immersion to be for the sake of conversion, then one needs to hold him tightly in the water in a way that demonstrates the owner’s dominance over the slave at that time, thereby defining the immersion as one for the sake of slavery.
כי האי דמנימין עבדיה דרב אשי בעא לאטבולי מסריה ניהלייהו לרבינא ולרב אחא ברי' דרבא אמר להו חזו דמינייכו קבעית ליה רמו ליה ארויסא בצואריה ארפו ליה וצמצמו ליה
That is as demonstrated in this incident involving Minyamin, Rav Ashi’s slave: When he wished to immerse him, he passed him to Ravina and Rav Aḥa, son of Rava, to perform the immersion on his behalf, and he said to them: Be aware that I will claim compensation for him from you if you do not prevent my slave from immersing for the sake of conversion. They placed a bridle [arvisa] upon his neck, and at the moment of immersion they loosened it and then immediately tightened it again while he was still immersed.
ארפו ליה כי היכי דלא להוי חציצה צמצמו ליה כי היכי דלא לקדים ולימא להו לשם בן חורין אני טובל בהדי דדלי רישיה ממיא אנחו ליה זולטא דטינא ארישיה ואמרו ליה זיל אמטי לבי מרך
The Gemara explains their actions: They initially loosened it in order that there should not be any interposition between the slave and the water during the immersion, which would invalidate it. They immediately tightened it again in order that the slave should not preempt them and say to them: I am immersing for the sake of becoming a freeman. When he lifted his head from the water they placed a bucket of clay upon his head and said to him: Go and bring this to the house of your master. They did this in order to demonstrate that the immersion had been successful and that he was still a slave.
א"ל רב פפא לרבא חזי מר הני דבי פפא בר אבא דיהבי זוזי לאינשי לכרגייהו ומשעבדי בהו כי נפקי צריכי גיטא דחירותא או לא
Rav Pappa said to Rava: Has the Master seen those of the house of Pappa bar Abba who give money to the tax-collectors on behalf of poor people to pay for their poll tax [karga], and as a result they would enslave them. Anyone who did not pay the tax would be taken as a slave for the king. By paying for such people’s taxes, the members of the house of Pappa bar Abba essentially purchased those people, who had become the king’s slaves, for themselves. Rav Pappa asked: When those slaves go free, do they require a bill of emancipation, because the members of the house of Pappa bar Abba actually attained ownership of the slaves’ bodies, or not, as they were owned only for the sake of their labor?
א"ל איכו שכיבי לא אמרי לכו הא מילתא הכי א"ר ששת מוהרקייהו דהני בטפסא דמלכא מנח ומלכא אמר מאן דלא יהיב כרגא משתעבד למאן דיהיב כרגא
He said to him: Were I dead I could not say this matter to you, so it is good that you have asked me while I am still alive, as I know that this is what Rav Sheshet said with regard to the matter: The writ of slavery [moharkayehu] of these residents of the kingdom rests in the treasury [tafsa] of the king, and in fact all the residents of the kingdom are considered to be full slaves of the king, i.e., he owns their bodies, irrespective of whether they pay their taxes. And so when the king says: One who does not give the poll tax is to be enslaved to the one who does give the poll tax on his behalf, the king’s decree is fully effective in making those residents full slaves of those who paid for them. As such, they will require a bill of emancipation when they are freed.
ר' חייא בר אבא איקלע לגבלא חזא בנות ישראל דמעברן מגרים שמלו ולא טבלו וחזא חמרא דישראל דמזגי עובדי כוכבים ושתו ישראל וחזא תורמוסין דשלקי עובדי כוכבים ואכלי ישראל ולא אמר להו ולא מידי
§ The Gemara relates: Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba once happened to come to Gavla. He saw Jewish women there who had become pregnant from converts who were circumcised but had still not immersed to complete their conversion process; and he saw wine of Jews that gentiles were pouring, and Jews were drinking it; and he saw lupines [turmusin] that gentiles were cooking, and Jews were eating them; but he did not say anything to them.
אתא לקמיה דר' יוחנן א"ל צא והכרז על בניהם שהם ממזרים ועל יינם משום יין נסך ועל תורמוסן משום בישולי עובדי כוכבים לפי שאינן בני תורה
Later, he came before Rabbi Yoḥanan and told him what he had witnessed. Rabbi Yoḥanan said to him: Go and make a public declaration concerning their children that they are mamzerim, and concerning their wine that it is forbidden because it is like wine poured as an idolatrous libation, and concerning their lupines that they are forbidden because they are food cooked by gentiles. One should be stringent and make such a declaration because they are not well-versed in Torah, and if they are left to be lax in this regard they will eventually transgress Torah prohibitions.
על בניהן שהם ממזרים ר' יוחנן לטעמיה דאמר ר' חייא בר אבא אמר ר' יוחנן לעולם אין גר עד שימול ויטבול וכיון דלא טביל עובד כוכבים הוא ואמר רבה בר בר חנה א"ר יוחנן עובד כוכבים ועבד הבא על בת ישראל הולד ממזר
The Gemara explains: With regard to the declaration concerning their children that they are mamzerim, Rabbi Yoḥanan conforms to his standard line of reasoning in two halakhot: The first is as Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: One is never considered to be a convert until he has been circumcised and has immersed. And since the convert in the case in Gavla had not immersed, he is still considered a gentile. And the second halakha is as Rabba bar bar Ḥana said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: With regard to a gentile or a slave who engaged in intercourse with a Jewish woman, the offspring of that union is a mamzer.
ועל יינם משום יין נסך משום לך לך אמרין נזירא סחור סחור לכרמא לא תקרב
And the reason to declare concerning their wine that it is forbidden because it is like wine poured as an idolatrous libation is that although their wine was not actually poured as an idolatrous libation, it was prohibited by rabbinic decree due to the maxim that: Go, go, we say to a nazirite, go around and go around, but do not come near to the vineyard. Although a nazirite is prohibited only from eating produce of the vine, he is warned not even to come into close proximity of a vineyard as a protective measure to ensure that he will not transgress this prohibition. So too, in many cases, the Sages decreed certain items and actions to be prohibited because they understood that if people would partake of them, they would eventually transgress Torah prohibitions.
ועל תורמוסן משום בשולי עובדי כוכבים לפי שאינן בני תורה הא בני תורה שרי והאמר רב שמואל בר רב יצחק משמי' דרב כל הנאכל כמות שהוא חי אין בו משום בשולי עובדי כוכבים והא תורמוס אינו נאכל כמות שהוא חי ויש בו משום בשולי עובדי כוכבים
And the final declaration concerning their lupines that they are forbidden because they are food cooked by gentiles is issued because they are not well versed in Torah. The Gemara expresses astonishment: Does this imply that were they students of the Torah their lupines would be permitted? Didn’t Rav Shmuel bar Rav Yitzḥak say in the name of Rav: Any food item that is eaten as it is, raw, is not subject to the prohibition of food cooked by gentiles, even when cooked by them? But a lupine is not eaten as it is, raw, and therefore it is subject to the prohibition of food cooked by gentiles.
ר' יוחנן כאידך לישנא סבירא ליה דאמר רב שמואל בר רב יצחק משמי' דרב כל שאין עולה על שולחן מלכים לאכול בו את הפת אין בו משום בשולי עובדי כוכבים וטעמא דאינן בני תורה הא בני תורה שרי
The Gemara explains that Rabbi Yoḥanan holds in this matter in accordance with the opinion of the other version of what Rav Shmuel bar Rav Yitzḥak said in the name of Rav: Any food item that lacks sufficient importance such that it does not appear on the table of kings in order to eat bread with it is not subject to the prohibition of food cooked by gentiles. Lupines lack importance and are therefore permitted even if cooked by gentiles. And consequently, the only reason to make a declaration prohibiting the residents of Gavla from eating them is because they are not well versed in Torah, and if they are left to be lax in this regard they will eventually become lax in actual Torah prohibitions; by inference, to those well versed in Torah, it is permitted.
§ During their sojourn in Egypt, the children of Israel had the halakhic status of gentiles. At the revelation at Sinai they entered into a national covenant with God in which they attained their status of the Jewish people. This transformation was essentially the mass conversion of the people, and so their preparation for the revelation provides a paradigm of the process required for conversion for all generations. The tanna’im disagree as to which aspects of that original conversion are to be derived for all generations.
ת"ר גר שמל ולא טבל ר"א אומר הרי זה גר שכן מצינו באבותינו שמלו ולא טבלו טבל ולא מל ר' יהושע אומר הרי זה גר שכן מצינו באמהות שטבלו ולא מלו וחכמים אומרים טבל ולא מל מל ולא טבל אין גר עד שימול ויטבול
The Sages taught in a baraita: With regard to a convert who was circumcised but did not immerse, Rabbi Eliezer says that this is a convert, as so we found with our forefathers following the exodus from Egypt that they were circumcised but were not immersed. With regard to one who immersed but was not circumcised, Rabbi Yehoshua says that this is a convert, as so we found with our foremothers that they immersed but were not circumcised. And the Rabbis say: Whether he immersed but was not circumcised or whether he was circumcised but did not immerse, he is not a convert until he is circumcised and he immerses.
ורבי יהושע נמי נילף מאבות ור"א נמי נילף מאמהות וכי תימא אין דנין אפשר משאי אפשר
The Gemara questions the opinions in the baraita: But let Rabbi Yehoshua also derive what is required for conversion from our forefathers; why didn’t he do so? And let Rabbi Eliezer also derive the halakha from our foremothers; why didn’t he do so? And if you would say that Rabbi Eliezer did not derive the halakha from our foremothers because he holds one cannot derive the possible from the impossible, i.e., one cannot derive that men do not require circumcision from the halakha that women do not require it, because for women it is a physical impossibility, that claim may be refuted.
והתניא ר"א אומר מנין לפסח דורות שאין בא אלא מן החולין נאמר פסח במצרים ונאמר פסח בדורות מה פסח האמור במצרים אין בא אלא מן החולין אף פסח האמור לדורות אין בא אלא מן החולין
It would appear that Rabbi Eliezer does not accept that principle, as isn’t it taught in a baraita that Rabbi Eliezer says: From where is it derived with regard to the Paschal lamb brought throughout the generations that it may be brought only from non-sacred animals? A Paschal lamb is stated in the Torah in reference to the lamb that the Jewish people brought prior to the exodus from Egypt, and a Paschal lamb is stated in reference to the yearly obligation throughout the generations. The association between them teaches that just as the Paschal lamb stated in reference to Egypt was only brought from non-sacred animals, since prior to the giving of the Torah there was no possibility to consecrate property, so too, with regard to the Paschal lamb stated in reference to the obligation throughout the generations, it may be brought only from non-sacred animals.
א"ל ר' עקיבא וכי דנין אפשר משאי אפשר א"ל אע"פ שאי אפשר ראיה גדולה היא ונלמד הימנה
Rabbi Akiva said to him: But can one derive the possible, i.e., the halakha for the Paschal lamb throughout the generations, where a possibility exists to bring it from consecrated animals, from the impossible, i.e., from the Paschal lamb in Egypt, where it was not a possibility? Rabbi Eliezer said to him: Although it was impossible to bring the Paschal lamb in Egypt from consecrated animals, nevertheless, it is still a great proof, and we may learn from it. It is apparent, then, that Rabbi Eliezer holds that one can derive the possible from the impossible. Therefore the original question stands: Why didn’t Rabbi Eliezer derive from the foremothers that circumcision is not essential for conversion?
The Gemara concedes: Rather, the baraita must be reinterpreted as follows: