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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Gittin

Folio 38a

but they cannot acquire from you nor can they acquire from one another. Shall I then say that they cannot acquire one another? [What do you mean by saying,] Shall I say that they cannot acquire one another? Have you not just said that they cannot acquire from one another?1  — What it means is this: They cannot acquire [slaves] from one another as far as their person is concerned.2  Shall I say also that they cannot acquire them for [their] labour? You may conclude [that this is not so] by an argument a fortiori. A heathen may acquire an Israelite [for his labour];3  surely then all the more so another heathen. But may I not say that such acquisition can only be by purchase,4  but not by hazakah?5  — R. Papa said: The territory of Ammon and Moab became purified [for acquisition by the Israelites] through [the occupation of] Sihon.6  We have satisfied ourselves that a heathen [can acquire] a heathen [by act of possession]. How do we know that a heathen [can acquire] an Israelite [in the same way]? — From the text, And he took some of them captive.7

R. Shaman b. Abba said in the name of R. Johanan: A slave who escapes from prison becomes a free man, and what is more, his master may be compelled to make out a deed of emancipation for him. We have learnt: RABBAN SIMEON B. GAMALIEL SAYS, IN EITHER CASE HE RETURNS TO SLAVERY, and Rabbah b. Bar Hanah has stated in the name of R. Johanan that wherever Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel records a statement in our Mishnah, the halachah is in accordance with him, except in the matters of the surety,8  of Sidon,9  and the latter proof.10  Now on the view of Abaye [that the Mishnah speaks of the case where the master has not yet given up hope of recovering], there is no conflict [between the two statements of R. Johanan], since he makes the latter11  refer to [the period] before [the master has] given up hope and the former [to the period] after he has given up hope. But on the view of Raba that [the latter also] refers to [the period] after [the master] has given up hope, there is a conflict, is there not, between the two statements of R. Johanan? — Raba can reply: What is R. Simeon's reason? The statement of Hezekiah [that the slave may give himself up to raiders]. But this does not apply to one who escapes; seeing that he risks his life [to do so], is it likely that he will throw himself into the hands of raiders?

A female slave of Mar Samuel was carried off [by raiders]. Some [Israelites] ransomed her as a slave and sent her to him, along with a message saying, We hold with Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel,12  but even if you hold with the Rabbis [you may accept her], because we have ransomed her as a slave. They thought that he had not yet given up hope [of recovering her], but this was not correct, as he had given up hope [of recovering her], and Samuel not only refrained from making her a slave again but he did not even require her to obtain a deed of emancipation. In this he followed his own maxim that 'if a man declares his slave common property,13  he becomes a free man and does not require a deed of emancipation, since it says, Every man's servant that is bought for money.'14  Does this mean the servant of a man and not of a woman? No; it means that a slave over whom his master still has control is called a slave, but a slave over whom his master has no control is not called a slave.

A female slave of R. Abba b. Zutra was carried off by raiders. A certain [heathen] from Tarmud15  ransomed her in order to marry her. They16  sent a message to him [R. Abba] saying, If you wish to act well, send her a deed of emancipation. What was the point of this message? If they were able to redeem her,17  why did they want a deed of emancipation?18  If they were not able to ransom her, of what good would a deed of emancipation be? — The fact was that it was possible to ransom her, and if he sent them a deed of emancipation, they would club together and [find the money] to ransom her. Or if you like I can say that they were not [at first] able to ransom her, but if the master would send her a deed of emancipation she would go down in the esteem of the heathen19  and he would consent to her ransom. But has not a Master said that the heathen like the cattle20  of Israel better than their [own] wives? — This is their real sentiment, but they think it beneath their dignity to show it.

There was a certain female slave in Pumbeditha who was used by men for immoral purposes — Abaye said: Were it not that Rab Judah has said in the name of Samuel that whoever emancipates his [heathen] slave breaks a positive precept, I would compel her master to make out a deed of emancipation for her. Rabina said; In such a case, Rab Judah would agree [that this is proper], in order to check immorality. And would not Abaye [act in the same way] to prevent immorality, seeing that R. Hanina b. Kattina has reported in the name of R. Isaac that the master of a certain woman who was half slave and half free21

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. And still less from an Israelite, so how can they acquire at all?
  2. So that if he escapes he becomes free without a deed of emancipation.
  3. This is based on the verse, And if a stranger or sojourner with thee be waxen rich etc. Lev. XXV, 47.
  4. [Lit., 'money.' Lev. XXV, 47. from which we learn that a heathen may acquire an Israelite as slave, speaks expressly of 'purchase money', v. verse 51.]
  5. This word seems here to have the double meaning of 'presumptive title' (supposing that the original owner has given up hopes of recovering him), and 'act of possession,' e.g., making the slave serve him. The question thus remains. — Was the brigand the rightful owner?
  6. Israel were forbidden to occupy the territory of Ammon and Moab (Deut. II, 9, 19). Sihon had taken some of the land of Moab (Num. XXI, 26), and this the Israelites were permitted to conquer from him and occupy. (Cf. Jud. XI, 15 ff.). This shows that a heathen can acquire ownership by act of possession.
  7. Num. XXI, 1. The lesson is derived from the fact that the Israelites taken by the king of Arad are called 'captives'.
  8. V. B.B. 173a.
  9. V. infra 74a and notes.
  10. V. Sanh. 31a.
  11. That in any case the slave returns to slavery.
  12. That even if we ransomed her for freedom, she must again become a slave.
  13. Which is equivalent to giving up hope of recovery.
  14. Ex. XII, 44.
  15. Palmyra.
  16. The Jewish authorities in the district.
  17. I.e., if the heathen was willing to surrender her for a ransom.
  18. They could redeem her back into slavery.
  19. Because it would become generally known that she was the slave of a Jew.
  20. And therefore the slaves also.
  21. Cf. infra 42a.
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Gittin 38b

was compelled by the Beth din to emancipate her, the reason being, as R. Nahman b. Isaac stated, that they used her for immoral purposes? — Can you compare the two cases? In this latter case, the woman [if not emancipated] is not qualified to marry either a slave or a free man;1  in the other case, it is possible for the master to appoint her his slave, and he will look after her.

The text above stated: Rab Judah said in the name of Samuel: Whoever emancipates his heathen slave breaks a positive precept, since it is written, They shall be your bondmen for ever.2  An objection was raised [against this from the following]: 'On one occasion R. Eliezer came into the synagogue and did not find [the quorum of] ten there, and he immediately emancipated his slave to make up the ten'? — Where a religious duty [has to be performed], the rule does not apply.

Our Rabbis taught: 'They shall be your bondmen for ever': This is optional. Such is the opinion of R. Ishmael. R. Akiba, however, holds that it is an obligation. Now perhaps R. Eliezer held with the one who says that it is optional?3  — Do not imagine such a thing, since it has been taught distinctly: R. Eliezer says that it is obligatory.

Rabbah said: For these three offences men become impoverished: for emancipating their [heathen] slaves, for inspecting their property on Sabbath, and for taking their main Sabbath meal at the hour when the discourse is given in the Beth Hamidrash. For so R. Hiyya b. Abba related in the name of R. Johanan, that there were two families in Jerusalem, one of which used to take its main meal on Sabbath [at the hour of the discourse] and the other on the eve of Sabbath,4  and both of them became extinct.

Rabbah said in the name of Rab; If a man sanctifies his slave, he becomes a free man. What is the reason? Because he does not sanctify5  his body,6  nor does he say that he is sanctified in respect of his money value. What he must mean, therefore, is that he is to become a member of the 'holy people'.7  R. Joseph, however, reported Rab as saying; If a man declares his slave common property he becomes a free man. The one who applies this rule where the slave is sanctified would apply it all the more where he is declared common property; but he who applies it where the slave is declared common property, would not necessarily apply it where he is sanctified, because the master may have been referring to his money value.

The question was asked: [Does a slave who is thus liberated] require a deed of emancipation or not? — Come and hear: R. Hiyya b. Abin said in the name of Rab; Both the one and the other become free men, and they require deeds of emancipation. Rabbah said: I raise an objection against my own statement8  from the following: 'If a man sanctifies his property and some slaves are included in it, the treasurers [of the Sanctuary] are not allowed to emancipate them,9  but they must sell them to others,10  and these others are allowed to emancipate them. Rabbi says: My view is that the slave can pay his own purchase price11  and liberate hiniself,12  because the treasurer in that case as it were sells him to himself'? — Do you seek to confute Rab from the Mishnah? Rab is himself [considered] a Tanna and is allowed to differ.

Come and hear [an objection to Rabbah]: 'Notwithstanding no devoted thing … whether of man etc. [shall be redeemed];13  these are his Canaanitish men-servants and maid-servants'?14  — We are presuming in this case that he says, [I vow] their money value.15  If that is so, cannot I say the same in the other case also? — If that were so, what of the words 'the treasurers are not allowed to liberate them'? Why are the treasurers mentioned?16  And further: 'But they can sell them to others, and these others are allowed to liberate them.' Why are 'others' mentioned? And again: 'Rabbi says: My view is that he may pay his own purchase price and so liberate himself, because the treasurer in that case as it were sells him to himself.' Now if only his money value is devoted, what is the point of the words, 'because as it were he sells him to himself'?

Come and hear: If a man sanctifies his slave, he [the slave] may go on supporting himself from his own labour, because only his money value has been sanctified!17

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Being forbidden to the one as a Jewess and to the other as a slave.
  2. Lev. XXV, 46.
  3. And if so, what need to explain his action on the around that where a religious duty is to be performed the rule does not apply?
  4. Instead of in the daytime. So Rashi. According to others, however, 'used to dine on Friday afternoon.' This, as Rashi points out, was actually forbidden, because it prevented a man entering on the Sabbath with a good appetite.
  5. I.e., devote to the Sanctuary.
  6. Since it cannot be used either for a sacrifice or for repairing the Temple.
  7. Deut. XIV, 2.
  8. Made in the name of Rab, that a slave who is sanctified becomes free.
  9. Because their persons are not acquired by the Sanctuary.
  10. This shows that the slave's money value is sanctified.
  11. v. Kid. 23b.
  12. Hence Rabbi also holds that the money value is sanctified.
  13. Lev. XXVII, 28.
  14. As this objection is from the Scripture, it cannot he answered like the last.
  15. And he does not mention sanctification.
  16. Lit., 'What have they to do'. If the slaves are not sanctified.
  17. And he remains the slave of his master. This is in opposition to Rab.
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