Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Kiddushin 18: Less Emancipation for Hebrew Maidservants

Continuing to discuss the Mishna of daf 14, our rabbis wonder further about the laws of inheritance.  Namely, was inheritance offered according to patrilineal descent?  If so, how do we understand the inheritance of Lot and his children, for example?  We know that Jews did not inherit from Gentiles, and Lot was surely a Gentile.  Perhaps, the rabbis argue, Torah law differs from rabbinical law regarding the designation of "Jew" and "Gentile".   How did the Noahide laws inform the rabbis' considerations?  Yaakov's marriage to both Leah and Rivka should serve as proof that our patriarchs were not subject to rabbinical law regarding marriage and divorce.

Next, the Gemara looks at differences between Hebrew slave and Hebrew maidservant.  Beyond the elements already mentioned in our last two dapim, the rabbis delve into the fact that a Hebrew maidservant is not sold a second time.  They walk us through the possible reasons that a Hebrew slave or a Hebrew maidservant might be sold twice. Those possibilities are denied.

The rabbis consider the possible ramifications of this rule.  Part of their conversation focuses on the status of a maidservant.  She has to be sold to a master who can perform the mitzvah of marrying her himself or offering her to his son.  How does this affect her emancipation?  The rabbis realize that a Hebrew maidservant, once married, cannot be freed as a Hebrew slave might be freed.  She requires a get or the death of her master in order to be emancipated.

Our daf ends with a relatively detailed discussion about selling a maidservant and selling a daughter.  Again, we bump up against competing realities: human beings have the right to be free and independent; women (and children and others) have limited rights as human beings.  The rabbis seem to engage in this struggle, too.  Ultimately, however, women are clearly seen as property that is subject to legal sale.  The main issue for the rabbis is how to determine which sales - and other actions - are, in fact, legal. 

No comments:

Post a Comment