Thursday, July 24, 2008

Selling a "Runaway" Slave

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Gittin 13a) explained the dispute between Rabbi Meir and the Chachamim as follows: The Gemora explains: Rabbi Meir said to them: You have answered me with regard to his food (the master has a right not to provide him with food), but you have not answered me with respect of terumah (if his master was a Kohen, he will lose the ability of eating terumah)! And if you will answer me that the master, if he wanted, could throw the document to the slave (against his will) and thereby disqualify him from eating terumah, this is not correct because the slave can run away and the master will not have the option to free him (and therefore the slave can still eat terumah)! For if the slave of a Kohen ran away (and he could not be found to free him), or the wife of a Kohen rebelled against him (and she could not be found for him to divorce her), would they not be able to still eat terumah! This slave (if someone is acquiring the document for him), however, will not be able to eat terumah!

Rava explains the Chachamim’s response in our Mishna: It is because the slave is the master’s property. The meaning is as follows: The master, if he wants, could take four zuzim from a Yisroel (selling the slave to him), which would thereby disqualify the slave from eating terumah (even if the slave runs away)!

The Reshash asks: How could the master sell his slave who ran away? This should be akin to one who stole an object from his friend. The owner is unable to sell it because it is not presently under his jurisdiction. Here too, the slave is not presently under the control of the owner!

He answers that here it is different. The slave fled from the master because he wants to remain a slave. He is therefore still regarded as being under the jurisdiction of his master.

Furthermore, the halacha is that land cannot be halachically stolen, and a slave which is compared to land has that halacha as well. Therefore, the slave, no matter where he is, would still be regarded as being under the control of the owner.

The Ayeles Hashachar answers: Since the slave is required to return himself to his master, it is considered as if he is still under his jurisdiction.

The Dvar Avraham writes that this question can be answered according to the Shitah Mikubetzes in Bava Kamma (33b). The Shitah says that if someone sells an item that was not under his control, but afterwards, it came into his jurisdiction, the sale is effective retroactively. Here too, if the slave is returned to the master, at that point the sale will be effective.