Monday, August 18, 2008

Half and Half

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Gittin 38a) relates an incident: There was a certain slavewoman in Pumbedisa who was used by men for sinful acts. Abaye said: Were it not that Rav Yehudah has said in the name of Shmuel that whoever emancipates his Canaanite slave violates a positive commandment, I would compel her master to write an emancipation document for her.

Ravina said: In such a case, Rav Yehudah would agree that this is proper, in order to prevent the immorality.

The Gemora asks: Shouldn’t Abaye permit this as well? But Rav Chanina bar Rav Katina has said in the name of Rabbi Yitzchak: There was an incident regarding a certain woman who was half slavewoman and half free woman (she had two masters, and one of them freed her), and they forced her master to make her a free woman. And Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak said: It was because people were acting immorally with her!?

The Gemora answers: In that case, she was not suitable to marry a slave or a free man; here, they could have designated a slave for her, and he would have protected her (therefore, there is no reason to free her).

The Minchas Chinuch (§ 347) asks from this Gemora on the Rashba, who holds that there is no prohibition against freeing a half slave, half free man because of his “free half.” If so, what is the Gemora asking on Abaye from the case of the half slavewoman and half free woman? Abaye would concede there that it is permitted to free her because she is already half free!?

The Oneg Yom Tov (§ 51) answers that the Rashba only said that regarding a slave, where his free half is obligated in more mitzvos than his slave half, for if he gains his freedom, he will have the ability to fulfill the mitzvah of procreation. The Torah, therefore, did not obligate the master to work him forever. However, by a slavewoman, who will not have the mitzvah of procreation even if she gains her freedom, the prohibition against emancipating her remains!