Monday, July 21, 2008

Agent to Free a Slave

The Mishna (Daf Yomi: Gittin 11b) had stated: If someone says: “Give this Get to my wife” or “Give this document freeing my slave to my slave,” if he wants to retract the document (before it gets to his wife/slave) he may. These are the words of Rabbi Meir. The Chachamim say: He can retract by the Get of his wife, but not by the document freeing his slave. This is because a person can have someone else acquire something beneficial for him when he is not present, but not something that is a liability for him when he is not present.

The Acharonim ask: One who frees his Canaanite slave has violated a Biblical commandment! If so, the agent who is being sent to deliver the emancipation document is an agent for an aveirah! There is a well established principle that one cannot be an agent for an aveirah!?

There are those who prove from here that although one is not permitted to serve as an agent to commit an aveirah, the agency, nevertheless, is not negated because of it. Tosfos in Bava Metzia (13b), however, states clearly regarding one who was sent to serve as an agent for an aveirah, the agency is negated and his actions are null and void.

The Noda BeYehudah answers that since the agent is acquiring the document for the slave, he is serving as an agent of the slave and not as an agent of the master. He is therefore not regarded as being an agent for an aveirah, because the aveirah is for the master to set him free; not for the slave to gain his freedom.

One can also answer that we are discussing a case where it was a mitzvah to free the slave (a tenth man was needed for a minyan), and therefore, there was no aveirah.