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Avadim - Chapter Five

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Avadim - Chapter Five


A Canaanite slave is acquired through five means and acquires his freedom through three. He may be acquired through the transfer of money, the transfer of a deed of purchase, the manifestation of one's ownership, a kinyan chalifin or by drawing him after oneself. He acquires his freedom through the transfer of money, the transfer of a legal document and because of the loss of the tips of his limbs or organs.

A Canaanite slave who is a minor is like an animal and is acquired by drawing him after oneself as one draws an animal. We have already explained in the beginning of this book all the means by which a slave is acquired.


עֶבֶד כְּנַעֲנִי נִקְנֶה בַּחֲמִשָּׁה דְּבָרִים וְקוֹנֶה אֶת עַצְמוֹ בִּשְׁלֹשָׁה. נִקְנֶה בְּכֶסֶף אוֹ בִּשְׁטָר אוֹ בַּחֲזָקָה אוֹ בַּחֲלִיפִין אוֹ בִּמְשִׁיכָה. וְקוֹנֶה אֶת עַצְמוֹ בְּכֶסֶף אוֹ בִּשְׁטָר אוֹ בְּרָאשֵׁי אֵיבָרִים. וְעֶבֶד קָטָן הֲרֵי הוּא כִּבְהֵמָה וְנִקְנֶה בִּמְשִׁיכָה כִּמְשִׁיכַת הַבְּהֵמָה. וּכְבָר בֵּאַרְנוּ בִּתְחִלַּת סֵפֶר זֶה כָּל הַדְּרָכִים שֶׁהָעֲבָדִים נִקְנִין בָּהֶן:


How can a Canaanite slave acquire himself through the transfer of money? When another person gave the slave's master money, telling him: "This is yours with the intent that your slave be granted his freedom because of it." Once the master receives the money or merchandise worth money, the slave is granted his freedom.

There is no need for the slave to know of this matter, for it is to his advantage to be released. And something that is to a person's advantage can be acquired on his behalf outside his presence.

Similarly, the slave can be freed if a person gives the slave money, specifying that it is given to him "with the intent that he use it to obtain his freedom." Should the master desire to accept the money, the slave is granted his freedom. If the master does not desire to accept the money, it is not acquired by the slave, because it was given to him only with the intent that he purchase his freedom with it.

Both money or merchandise worth money are effective in acquiring the slave or in his acquiring his freedom.


כֵּיצַד קוֹנֶה אֶת עַצְמוֹ בְּכֶסֶף. כְּגוֹן שֶׁנָּתַן אֶחָד לְרַבּוֹ מָעוֹת וְאָמַר לוֹ עַל מְנָת שֶׁיֵּצֵא עַבְדְּךָ בָּהֶם לְחֵרוּת כֵּיוָן שֶׁקִּבֵּל הָרַב אֶת הַכֶּסֶף אוֹ שְׁוֵה כֶּסֶף יָצָא הָעֶבֶד לְחֵרוּת. וְאֵין צָרִיךְ דַּעַת הָעֶבֶד שֶׁזְּכוּת הִיא לוֹ וְזָכִין לְאָדָם שֶׁלֹּא בְּפָנָיו. וְכֵן אִם נָתַן אֶחָד לְעֶבֶד מָעוֹת וְאָמַר עַל מְנָת שֶׁתֵּצֵא בָּהֶם לְחֵרוּת אִם רָצָה הָאָדוֹן לְקַבֵּל הַמָּעוֹת יָצָא הָעֶבֶד לְחֵרוּת וְאִם לֹא רָצָה לֹא קָנָה הָעֶבֶד הַמָּעוֹת שֶׁלֹּא נָתַן לוֹ אֶלָּא עַל מְנָת שֶׁיֵּצֵא בָּהֶם לְחֵרוּת. וְאֶחָד הַכֶּסֶף אוֹ שְׁוֵה כֶּסֶף בֵּין לִקְנוֹתוֹ בֵּין לְהַקְנוֹת עַצְמוֹ לוֹ:


How does a slave achieve his freedom through the transfer of a legal document? The master must write to him on a paper or on a shard: "Behold, you are a free man," "Behold, you are your own property," "I no longer have anything to do with you," or other statements that share this theme. For this is the primary content of a bill of release.

Afterwards, he gives him the document in the presence of two witnesses. Similarly, if witnesses have signed on the bill of release and he gives the slave the bill of release in private, he attains his freedom. For the bill of release and his capacity to receive it come at the same time.

Different rules apply if the master tells the slave "Behold, you are a free man," "Behold, you are your own property," but does not write it in a document: Even though witnesses testify in court that the master made such statements, and even if the master affirmed the statements with a kinyan, the slave has not yet been freed. For a slave is not granted freedom except through the transfer of money, the transfer of a legal document or because of the loss of the tips of his limbs or organs.

When a person writes in a legal document to his maid-servant: "Behold you are permitted to any man," his statement is of no consequence.


כֵּיצַד בִּשְׁטָר. כּוֹתֵב לוֹ עַל הַנְּיָר אוֹ עַל הַחֶרֶס הֲרֵי אַתְּ בֶּן חוֹרִין אוֹ הֲרֵי אַתְּ שֶׁל עַצְמְךָ אוֹ אֵין לִי עֵסֶק בְּךָ. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה בְּעִנְיָן זֶה שֶׁזֶּה הוּא גּוּפוֹ שֶׁל גֵּט שִׁחְרוּר. וּמוֹסֵר לוֹ אֶת הַשְּׁטָר בִּפְנֵי שְׁנֵי עֵדִים אוֹ שֶׁהָיוּ הָעֵדִים חֲתוּמִים בּוֹ וּמְסָרוֹ לוֹ בֵּינוֹ לְבֵינוֹ. הֲרֵי זֶה יָצָא לְחֵרוּת שֶׁהֲרֵי גִּטּוֹ וְיָדוֹ בָּאִין כְּאֶחָד. אָמַר לוֹ שֶׁלֹּא בִּכְתָב הֲרֵי אַתְּ בֶּן חוֹרִין הֲרֵי אַתְּ שֶׁל עַצְמְךָ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהֵעִידוּ עָלָיו עֵדִים בְּבֵית דִּין וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁקָּנוּ מִיָּדוֹ עֲדַיִן לֹא נִשְׁתַּחְרֵר שֶׁאֵין הָעֶבֶד יוֹצֵא לְחֵרוּת אֶלָּא בְּכֶסֶף אוֹ בִּשְׁטָר אוֹ בְּרָאשֵׁי אֵיבָרִים. והַכּוֹתֵב לְשִׁפְחָתוֹ הֲרֵי אַתְּ מֻתֶּרֶת לְכָל אָדָם לֹא אָמַר כְּלוּם:


How is a slave released because of the loss of the tips of his limbs or organs? A person intentionally struck his slave and caused him to lose one of the 24 tips of his limbs or organs that will not regenerate; he is granted his freedom. A bill of release is required.

If this applies to the 24 limbs, why does the Torah mention explicitly a tooth and an eye? To extrapolate from them. What characterizes the loss of an eye or a tooth? That they are obvious blemishes that will not be regenerated; so too, all obvious blemishes that will not be regenerated cause a slave to be granted his freedom. If, by contrast, a master castrates his slave or cuts out his tongue, the slave is not granted his freedom, for these are not revealed blemishes. Similarly, if a person knocks out one of a young slave's baby teeth, the slave is not released, for the tooth will grow back.


כֵּיצַד בְּרָאשֵׁי אֵיבָרִים. הַמַּכֶּה אֶת עַבְדּוֹ בְּכַוָּנָה וְחָסְרוּ אֶחָד מֵעֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבָּעָה רָאשֵׁי אֵיבָרִים שֶׁאֵינָן חוֹזְרִין יָצָא לְחֵרוּת וְצָרִיךְ גֵּט שִׁחְרוּר. אִם כֵּן לָמָּה נֶאֱמַר בַּתּוֹרָה (שמות כא כז) "שֵׁן" וְ (שמות כא כו) "עַיִן" לִדּוֹן מֵהֶן מָה שֵׁן וְעַיִן מוּמִין שֶׁבְּגָלוּי וְאֵינָן חוֹזְרִין אַף כָּל מוּמִין שֶׁבְּגָלוּי וְאֵינָן חוֹזְרִין יֵצֵא הָעֶבֶד בּוֹ לְחֵרוּת. אֲבָל הַמְסָרֵס עַבְדּוֹ בַּבֵּיצִים אוֹ הַחוֹתֵךְ לְשׁוֹנוֹ אֵינוֹ יוֹצֵא לְחֵרוּת שֶׁאֵינָן מוּמִין שֶׁבְּגָלוּי. וְכֵן הַמַּפִּיל שֵׁן הַקָּטָן אֵינוֹ יוֹצֵא לְחֵרוּת שֶׁהֲרֵי סוֹפוֹ לַחְזֹר:


The only slaves released because of the loss of the tips of their limbs or organs are slaves that have been circumcised and immersed in the mikveh, for they are obligated in the observance of some of the mitzvot. A slave who is an outright gentile is not released because of the loss of the tips of his limbs or organs.

These are the tips of the limbs and organs that will not regenerate: the 10 fingers and the ten toes, the tips of the ears, the tip of the nose, the tip of the male organ, the nipples of a woman's breasts. The eyes and the teeth are not included in this reckoning, because they are explicitly mentioned in the Torah.


אֵין יוֹצֵא בְּרָאשֵׁי אֵיבָרִים אֶלָּא עֲבָדִים שֶׁמָּלוּ וְטָבְלוּ שֶׁהֲרֵי יֶשְׁנָן בְּמִקְצָת מִצְוֹת אֲבָל הָעֶבֶד שֶׁהוּא בְּגֵיוּתוֹ אֵינוֹ יוֹצֵא בְּרָאשֵׁי אֵיבָרִים. אֵלּוּ הֵן רָאשֵׁי אֵיבָרִים שֶׁאֵינָן חוֹזְרִין. אֶצְבְּעוֹת יָדַיִם וְרַגְלַיִם עֶשְׂרִים רָאשֵׁי הָאָזְנַיִם וְרֹאשׁ הַחֹטֶם וְרֹאשׁ הַגְּוִיָּה וְרָאשֵׁי הַדָּדִין שֶׁבָּאִשָּׁה אֲבָל הָעֵינַיִם וְהַשִּׁנַּיִם הֲרֵי הֵן מְפֹרָשִׁין בַּתּוֹרָה:


Should a slave possess an extra finger, and the master cut it off, the slave is released because of its loss if the finger is counted on his hand together with his other fingers. If the slave's eye was blinded, and the master cut it out, the slave is released because of its loss. For the master caused him the loss of an organ.

The same law applies with regard to any other of the tips of the organs that are not functional and cannot be used for a task: if the master cuts it off, the master caused him the loss of an organ, and the slave is released because of its loss.


הָיְתָה לוֹ אֶצְבַּע יְתֵרָה וַחֲתָכָהּ אִם נִסְפֶּרֶת עַל גַּב הַיָּד עֶבֶד יוֹצֵא בָּהּ לְחֵרוּת. הָיְתָה עֵינוֹ סְמוּיָה וְחִטְטָהּ עֶבֶד יוֹצֵא בָּהּ לְחֵרוּת שֶׁהֲרֵי חִסְּרוֹ אֵיבָר. וְהוּא הַדִּין לְאֶחָד מֵרָאשֵׁי אֵיבָרִים שֶׁהוּא בָּטֵל וְאֵינוֹ עוֹשֶׂה בּוֹ מְלָאכָה שֶׁאִם חֲתָכוֹ הֲרֵי חִסְּרוֹ אֵיבָר וְיָצָא לְחֵרוּת:


If the master struck the servant on his eye and blinded him, or on his ear and made him deaf, the slave is released because of it. If, however, the master struck the slave near his eye and afterwards, he no longer saw, or near his ear, and he no longer heard, the servant is not released because of this.


הִכָּהוּ עַל עֵינוֹ וְסִמְּאָהּ עַל אָזְנוֹ וְחֵרְשָׁהּ עֶבֶד יוֹצֵא בָּהֶן לְחֵרוּת. הִכָּהוּ כְּנֶגֶד עֵינוֹ וְאֵינוֹ רוֹאֶה כְּנֶגֶד אָזְנוֹ וְאֵינוֹ שׁוֹמֵעַ אֵין עֶבֶד יוֹצֵא בָּהֶן לְחֵרוּת:


The following rules apply if the master struck the slave on his eye and reduced its sight, or struck him on his tooth and caused it to wobble. If the slave can use these organs, he is not released. If not, he is released.


הִכָּהוּ עַל עֵינוֹ וְחָסְרָה מֵאוֹרָהּ. עַל שִׁנּוֹ וְנִדְּדָהּ. אִם יָכוֹל לְהִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בָּהֶם אֵינוֹ יוֹצֵא לְחֵרוּת וְאִם לָאו יֵצֵא לְחֵרוּת:


The following rules apply if the slave's eye was not functioning well, and he saw with difficulty, or the slave's tooth was wobbly, and the master struck him and knocked out the wobbly tooth or blinded the weak eye. If the slave was able to use these organs beforehand at all, he is granted his freedom because of their loss. If not, he is not granted his freedom.


הָיְתָה עֵינוֹ כֵּהָה וְחִסֵּר מֵאוֹרָהּ אוֹ שִׁנּוֹ נוֹדֶדֶת וְהִכָּהוּ הָאָדוֹן וְהִפִּיל הַשֵּׁן הַנּוֹדֶדֶת אוֹ סִמֵּא הָעַיִן הַכֵּהָה אִם הָיָה מִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בָּהֶן כָּל שֶׁהוּא יֵצֵא לְחֵרוּת וְאִם לָאו לֹא יֵצֵא לְחֵרוּת:


If the master struck the slave on his hand and it became swollen, but it would ultimately return to its normal state, the slave is not released because of it. If the master pulled at the slave's beard and in doing so, dislocated his jaw bone, the slave is granted his freedom, because the master nullified the use of the teeth that are located in that bone.


הִכָּהוּ עַל יָדוֹ וְצָבְתָה יָדוֹ וְסוֹפָהּ לַחְזֹר אֵינוֹ יוֹצֵא לְחֵרוּת. תָּלַשׁ בִּזְקָנוֹ וְדִלְדֵּל בּוֹ עֶצֶם מִן הַלֶּחִי יֵצֵא לְחֵרוּת שֶׁהֲרֵי בִּטֵּל מַעֲשֵׂה הַשִּׁנַּיִם הַקְּבוּעוֹת בְּאוֹתוֹ הָעֶצֶם:


If the master knocked out the slave's tooth or blinded his eye unintentionally - e.g., he threw a stone at an animal and it hit the slave and knocked out his tooth or cut his finger - he is not released. This is alluded to by Exodus 21:27, which states: "If he will knock out his slave's or his maid-servant's tooth." The wording implies that he must do so intentionally.


הִפִּיל אֶת שִׁנּוֹ אוֹ סִמֵּא אֶת עֵינוֹ בְּלֹא כַּוָּנָה כְּגוֹן שֶׁזָּרַק אֶבֶן לִבְהֵמָה וְנָפְלָה בָּעֶבֶד וְהִפִּילָה אֶת שִׁנּוֹ וְחָתְכָה אֶצְבָּעוֹ לֹא יֵצֵא לְחֵרוּת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כא כז) "אִם שֵׁן עַבְדּוֹ אוֹ שֵׁן אֲמָתוֹ יַפִּיל" עַד שֶׁיִּתְכַּוֵּן:


If the master inserted his hand into the womb of his maid-servant and blinded the eye of the fetus within, he is not granted his freedom. For he did not know anything of the entity so that he could intend to strike it.


הוֹשִׁיט יָדוֹ לִמְעֵי שִׁפְחָתוֹ וְסִמֵּא עֵין הָעֻבָּר שֶׁבְּמֵעֶיהָ לֹא יֵצֵא לְחֵרוּת שֶׁהֲרֵי לֹא יָדַע דָּבָר שֶׁיִּתְכַּוֵּן לוֹ:


If the slave's master was a physician and the slave told him: "Treat my eye for me," and he blinded it, "Hollow out my tooth for me," and he knocked it out, the slave tricked the master and is granted his freedom. For although he did not have the intent of injuring the slave, he did intend to touch the slave's limbs and became endangered because of them.

Needless to say, if the slave's eye was hurting, and his master was a blood-letter and removed it for him, the slave is granted his freedom.


הֲרֵי שֶׁהָיָה רַבּוֹ רוֹפֵא וְאָמַר לוֹ כְּחל לִי עֵינִי וְסִמְּאָהּ חֲתֹר לִי שִׁנִּי וְהִפִּילָהּ שָׂחַק בָּאָדוֹן וְיֵצֵא לְחֵרוּת שֶׁאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא נִתְכַּוֵּן לְהַזִּיק הֲרֵי נִתְכַּוֵּן לִנְגֹּעַ בְּאֵיבְרֵי הָעֶבֶד וְנִסְתַּכֵּן בָּהֶן. וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר אִם הָיְתָה עֵין הָעֶבֶד כּוֹאֶבֶת וְהָיָה רַבּוֹ אֻמָּן וַעֲקָרָהּ לוֹ שֶׁהֲרֵי יֵצֵא לְחֵרוּת:


When a person knocks out the tooth of a slave and then blinds his eye, he must grant the slave his freedom because of his tooth, and pay him damages for his eye. The same principles apply in all analogous situations.


הַמַּפִּיל שֵׁן עַבְדּוֹ וְסִמֵּא אֶת עֵינוֹ הֲרֵי יֵצֵא לְחֵרוּת בְּשִׁנּוֹ וְנוֹתֵן לוֹ דְּמֵי עֵינוֹ. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה:


When a person is half a slave and half a free man or he is jointly owned by two masters, he does not receive his freedom because of the loss of the tips of his limbs or organs. The rationale is that he is not the sole property of the master who injured him.


מִי שֶׁחֶצְיוֹ עֶבֶד וְחֶצְיוֹ בֶּן חוֹרִין וְעֶבֶד שֶׁל שְׁנֵי שֻׁתָּפִין אֵינוֹ יוֹצֵא בְּרָאשֵׁי אֵיבָרִים לְפִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ מְיֻחָד לְרַבּוֹ שֶׁחָבַל בּוֹ:


Slaves that belonged to a wife and are considered as tzon barzel are released because of the loss of the tips of their limbs or organs if the husband injures them, but not if the wife injures them.

Slaves that belong to a wife and are considered as nichsei m'log, are not released because of the loss of the tips of their limbs or organs, neither if the husband injures them - for he owns merely the use of them, nor if the wife injures them - for they are not solely hers.


עַבְדֵי צֹאן בַּרְזֶל יוֹצְאִין בְּרָאשֵׁי אֵיבָרִים אִם חִסְּרָן הַבַּעַל אֲבָל לֹא הָאִשָּׁה. וְעַבְדֵי מְלוֹג אֵינָן יוֹצְאִין בְּרָאשֵׁי אֵיבָרִים לֹא אִם הִפִּיל הַבַּעַל שֶׁהֲרֵי אֵין לוֹ בָּהֶם אֶלָּא פֵּרוֹת וְלֹא אִם הִפִּילָה אוֹתָן הָאִשָּׁה מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵינָן מְיֻחָדִין לָהּ:


The release of slaves because of the loss of the tips of their limbs or organs is practiced in every place, and in every time. This ruling may be delivered only by judges who possess semichah, for this is a fine.

For this reason, if a servant told his master: "You knocked out my tooth and blinded my eye," and the master admits doing this, the master is not liable. The rationale is that had he taken the initiative and admitted having caused this injury, he would not be liable to grant the slave his freedom unless witnesses testify. For a person who admits his guilt in a case requiring a fine is not liable. As Hilchot Geneivah states, anyone who admits his guilt in a case requiring a fine is not liable.


יְצִיאַת הָעֶבֶד בְּרָאשֵׁי אֵיבָרִים נוֹהֵג בְּכָל מָקוֹם וּבְכָל זְמַן וְאֵין דָּנִין בּוֹ אֶלָּא בְּבֵית דִּין סְמוּכִין מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא קְנָס. לְפִיכָךְ הָעֶבֶד שֶׁאָמַר לְרַבּוֹ הִפַּלְתָּ אֶת שִׁנִּי וְסִמֵּיתָ אֶת עֵינִי וְהָאָדוֹן אוֹמֵר לוֹ עָשִׂיתִי זֶה פָּטוּר שֶׁאִם יוֹדֶה מֵעַצְמוֹ אֵינוֹ חַיָּב לְהוֹצִיאוֹ לְחֵרוּת בְּלֹא עֵדִים שֶׁהַמּוֹדֶה בִּקְנָס פָּטוּר כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ בְּהִלְכוֹת גְּנֵבָה שֶׁכָּל מוֹדֶה בִּקְנָס פָּטוּר מִלְּשַׁלְּמוֹ:

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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