Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Freeing a Half-Slave

The Mishna (Daf Yomi: Gittin 41a) had stated: Someone who is half-slave and half-free man (he was owned by two partners, and one of them emancipated him), he works for his master one day and for himself one day; these are the words of Beis Hillel. Beis Shamai, however, says: You have created a solution for the master (for he does not lose out through this division), but you have not solved anything for the slave. He may not marry a slavewoman, for he is half-free. He cannot marry a free woman for he is half-slave. If you will say that such a person should refrain from marrying, that cannot be, for the world was created for the purpose of propagation, as it is written: He did not create it to be desolate; He formed it to be inhabited. Rather, to benefit the public (this slave), we force his master to make him a free man, and the slave writes a document for his value. Beis Hillel later retracted and ruled in accordance with Beis Shamai.

The commentators ask: How can we force the master to free the slave? Isn’t there a prohibition against emancipating a slave?

The Kli Chemdah answers this question based upon the Avudraham, who says that a woman is exempt from mitzvos which have a time element to them, because she is pledged to her husband at these times. So too, it can be said with respect to a half-slave half-free man. Since he is partially a free man, he is obligated to observe all the mitzvos. Therefore, at the times where he is responsible to serve his master, he cannot do so completely, for he is obligated in mitzvos. Consequently, the master will anyway not be able to fulfill the mitzvah of working the slave forever; therefore, there is no prohibition against freeing him.