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Thought for the Day: From Eved to Jew

Here's another cool thing about an eved k'na'ani, when freed, he becomes a Jew.  Quite a transition, from essentially property to a member of the tribe, but that's the way it works.  That's why I was bothered for the last couple of weeks by one of the consequences of Takanas Usha.

Suppose a woman comes into a marriage with an eved k'na'ani as part of her nichsei m'log portfolio.  As mentioned, one of the ways he goes free is if the master causes the eved to lose one of his 24 limb tips; fingers, toes, nose, etc.  What I did not mention before, is that Torah only frees him if he has only one master.  If he is jointly owned (two people went in on the tickets for the Beis Yaakov Chinese Auction, for example), then the actions of one partner do not free the eved.  So far so good.  Since Takanas Usha, the owner is made "like a partner".  If the husband knocks out one of the eved's teeth, then he does not go free; after all, as Rashi explains, he isn't really the owner.  If she knocks out one of the eved's teeth, though, he also does not go free.  After all, as again Rashi explains, Chazal strengthened his hold on her property as if he is a partner -- "as if" being the operative phrase here.

But that means at the d'oraisa level, the slave should go free -- and become a full fledged Jew.  How does a rabinic enactment thwart that?  You can't use the usual answer of "hefker beis hefker" (the right of beis din to render property ownerless), because making him ownerless does not make him Jewish -- it just makes him ownerless till someone picks acquires him by any of the usual ways of acquiring hefker property.

Hey... so what does make him Jewish?!  The Ritva (Chidushim on Kiddushin, 15) says that freeing an eved is a two step process.  The eved is subject to a kinyan guf and a kinyan issur.  The kinyan guf assigns him and his produce to the master.  The kinyan issur prevents him from marrying a Jewish woman.  Making the eved hefker, be declaration of either the owner or beis din, only removes the kinyan guf.  To remove the kinyan issur, the master must write a "shtar shichrur"/document of freedom; analogously to the get process in a Jewish divorce.

Ah ha!  Just as Chazal can tell us not to blow the Shofar when Rosh HaShana falls on Shabbos -- even though the Torah commands it; so too, Chazal can tell the master (wife, in this case) not to write a shtar shichrur.  Simple.

Lest you think it is "funny" that the Torah prescribes such a procedure as a path to becoming Jewish... isn't that what HaShem did to create us in the first place?  He sent us to the university of slavery, aka Mitzrayim, then brought us out to graduate from avdei avadim to avdei HaShem.  Quite a commencement speech, no?


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