Thursday, July 24, 2008

Rashi's Retraction

The Mishna states: If one says, “Give a get to my wife,” or he says, “Give an emancipation document to my slave,” and he died, the documents should not be given after his death.

Rashi notes that our Mishna should not read, “Give this get to my wife,” or “Give this emancipation document to my slave,” rather, he merely said, “Give a get to my wife,” or “Give an emancipation document to my slave.” He instructed the agents to do so, but he did not actually give them the document. If he would have handed the document to the agents, the Chachamim would hold that the emancipation is effective immediately, for they maintain that it is advantageous for a slave to gain his freedom and the agents can acquire the document for him.

Tosfos (9b) points out that here, Rashi, is retracting from a position he took above. Rashi had stated that when the agents acquire the document for the slave, the slave does not gain his freedom at that time. He becomes free when the document is delivered into his hands. The acquisition of the document accomplishes that the master may not retract any longer. Here, Rashi says that if the agents would acquire the document, the slave’s emancipation would be effective immediately.