Daf Yomi

For the week ending 18 September 2004 / 3 Tishri 5765

Erachin 30 - Temura 5

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Two Slaves, Two Passages

The leniency shown by the Torah to a Jew who is redeeming the field he sold is deduced from the comparison it makes to the leniency shown in regard to the redemption of a Hebrew slave from his non-Jewish owner.

What is the source for interpreting the relevant Torah passages as dictating a benevolent policy towards any Hebrew slave?

The Sage Abaye quotes a beraita which rules that the owner of a Hebrew slave must treat him as an equal in regard to the food and bed he provides for him. The Torah passage cited in our gemara and a number of other places in the Talmud is the one dealing with the Jew who has been sold into slavery by the court because he lacked the funds to compensate the party from whom he stole. That slave is sold for a six-year period but can opt to stay on until the Yovel Year should he declare that he does not wish to leave you for he is fond of you and your family since it is good for him with you (Devarim 16:16). With you is interpreted as a command to ensure that he is treated as an equal in regard to the above-mentioned accommodations.

Tosefot raises a problem regarding the citing of this particular passage, for there is no language of command in it, only the report of the slaves reason for continuing his servitude. The passage from which this obligation is deduced by our Sages is the one which actually commands the owner of the slave who sold himself out of desperate poverty to treat him not as a slave but that as a hired worker shall he be with you (Vayikra 25:40). It is therefore the opinion of Tosefot here and in other places that the text should be edited to replace the passage cited.

The Tosefist Rabbi Yitzchak in Mesechta Baba Kama (87b) comes to the defense of the existing text. Since the slave describes the conditions of equality he has enjoyed, it is an indication that this is the manner in which the Torah expects him to be treated and is tantamount to a command.

The question remains, however, why our gemara prefers this particular passage in Devarim to the other in Vayikra. The answer may be in a point raised by Maharsha (Kiddushin 15a) as to how we can extend the benevolent attitude shown to the slave who sold himself (Vayikra) to the one sold because of his thievery, since there is a case to be made that the latter should not enjoy such favorable conditions as punishment for his crime. By citing a passage related to that kind of slave we have an indication that the equality explicitly commanded in regard to the other slave applies to him as well.

  • Erachin 30b

The House in the Wall

She let them down from the window with a rope, for her house was in the thickness of the wall and she lived in the wall. (Yehoshua 2:15)

Thus came to a dramatic climax the spying mission of two agents sent by Yehoshua to discover the mood of the people in Yericho, the first city the Israelites were to conquer in Eretz Yisrael. After successfully concealing them from the government police pursuing them, the owner of this house in the wall, Rachav, revealed to them what they wanted to know. She then enabled them to escape from the shut gates of this heavily walled city by lowering them from her window to the area beyond the wall.

How to interpret the phrase she lived in the wall which appears after we have already been informed that her house was in the thickness of the wall is a matter of debate between Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Yehuda, which has halachic ramifications.

When the laws of the Yovel year were in effect, the rule was that if a Jew sold a house in the walled city he had one whole year in which to buy it back. If he failed to do so it became the permanent property of the buyer and did not revert back to him in the Yovel year as in the case of a field of a house in an unwalled city. Should the house in question be one which is actually within the wall surrounding a city, it is the view of Rabbi Shimon that the outside wall of that house constitutes the wall of the city surrounding it, and the law of a walled city therefore applies to it. His proof is that the phrase she lived in the wall means that she lived within the walled city. Rabbi Yehuda disagrees because his understanding of that phrase is a stress that since her home was within the wall itself it was considered as if she lived only in the wall but not within the walled city.

  • Erachin 32a

Return of the Lost Tribes?

What monument is that which I see? (Melachim II, 23:17)

This is the query which the righteous King Yoshiyahu put to the people of Beth El while he was in the midst of a campaign to eradicate every trace of idol worship in Eretz Yisrael.

They informed him that they had a tradition that this was the grave of the Prophet who had centuries before prophesied in Beth El to Yerovam, king of the separatist Kingdom of Yisrael, that the altar upon which he was about to perform idolatrous service would someday be the scene of a mass slaughter of idolatrous priests carried out by a descendant of King David named Yoshiyahu.

But what was this very Yoshiyahu, who was king of the Kingdom of Yehuda, doing in Beth El, which was in the breakaway Kingdom of Yisrael whose inhabitants had been exiled by the Assyrian ruler Sancherib?

The solution to this mystery is supplied by Rabbi Yochanan. The Prophet Yirmiyahu, he says, succeeded in bringing the exiled Ten Tribes back to Eretz Yisrael and they were united with the two tribes which made up the Kingdom of Yehuda under the rule of Yoshiyahu.

Rabbi David Kimche (RaDAK), in his commentary on Tanach, points out that more than 350 years had passed from the time that the Prophet was buried in this grave marked by a unique monument until it caught the attention of the king about whom the Prophet had prophesied. The tradition that this was his grave was transmitted from father to son, and as a result the remains of the Prophet were not burned along with the bones of the idolatrous priests which were removed from their graves.

It should be noted that Rabbi Yochanans version of what happened to the lost Ten Tribes is not the mainstream view, which is that they never returned.

  • Erachin 33a

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