Masechet Chagigah discusses the mitzvah of Re’iya observed on the three regalim – Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot– and opens by listing those who are exempt from this mitzvah. Exactly what the Mishnah is referring to by “Re’iya”, whether it is simply means appearing in the courtyard of the Beit HaMikdash or offering the korban olah, is the subject of debate (see Volume 2, Issue 48).
The Mishnah opens with “everyone is obligated in [the mitzvah of] Re’iya” prior to listing those who are exempt. The Bartunera explains that the first statement comes to include a half servant, half free person, in the obligation of Re’iya. Nevertheless he adds that this is not the halacha and that such a person is exempt. This comment certainly needs further explanation.
A half servant, half free person is a servant that was owned by two people, yet only one of the owners decided to set the servant free of his share.
When the Gemara discusses the opening line of the Mishnah it deliberates whether it includes such a person. The Mishnah however lists a “servant who is not free” as one who is exempt from Re’iya. Ravina understands that since the Mishnah add the words “who is not free” it must have been referring to a half servant. The Gemara therefore differentiates between two different teachings (Mishnah Rishona and Mishna Achrona). To explain, initially, Beit Hillel argued that this servant would be required to serve his remaining master on alternating days (this is the Mishnah Rishona). In the end however, Beit Hillel agreed with Beit Shammai that we force the remaining master to set the servant free (Mishnah Achrona). (Were it not the case, the half servant would not be able to marry either another servant (as he is half free) or a bat yisrael.) The question debated by the Rishonim is how does the change in position of Beit Hillel relate to our Mishnah.
Rashi explains that according to the Mishnah Rishona the half servant was exempt. According to the Mishnah Achrona, since the remaining owner is now forced to free him, the half server is considered as ifhe is free with respect to Re’iya. Importantly, he is not yet truly free and requires a formal get shichrur to achieve full freedom. The Lechem Mishnah (Korban Chagigah 2:1) notes that according to this understanding the order of the Mishnah is reversed and discusses the Mishnah Achrona first.
The Rambam however understand the situation in the reverse (as does the Bartenura cited above1). According to the Mishnah Rishona the half servant was obligated. Once Beit Hillel changed their position, the half servant became exempt. The Tosfot Yom Tov explains that since according to this initial ruling, the half servant was caught in that position, the Chachamim enacted a takana for him to perform the mitzvah. According to the Mishnah Achrona, since the remaining owner was being forced to free him, they left him excluded from the mitzvah thereby adding more pressure on the owner to free him. (This is the explanation of Avraham ben HaRambam.)
The Mishnah Lemelech notes that according to this understanding of theRambam, the half servant is exempt on a biblical level, yet according to the Mishnah Rishona the Chachamim nonetheless obligated him. If so, the half servant would be violating the prohibition of bringing a chulin animal into the Beit HaMikdash! The Mishnah Lemelech suggest that the Chachamim used their ability to declare property ownerless and made this half servant completely free thereby obligating him on a biblical level. The Sefat Emethowever suggest that the obligation for Re’iya discussed refers only to appearing in the Beit Ha’Mikdash but not to bring the accompanying olah offering.2
1 The Tosfot Yom Tov notes that the Bartenura appears to switch sides regarding a half servant with respect to the korban pesach (Pesachim 8:1). There the Bartenura explains that according to the Mishnah Achrona since the owner is forced to free him, even though he is not yet free he is considered like a free person and may eat from his own korban pesach. The Chidushei Mahariach answers that by korban pesach, since the owner has other options for the half servant to take part in the korban pesachwithout freeing him, preventing the eved from having korban pesachon his own will not expedite his release. An eved can eat from a *korban pesach.*The issue with a half-eved is that min ha’stamthe remaining owner would not have included the part of the eved that is free; the owner could include that part if he chose to. Here however, there is no option for the half servant other than his release to perform the mitzvah of Re’iya.
2 The Sefat Emet also quote the opinion of the Rishon Le’Tzion that according to the Mishnah Rishona since there were definite days where he was free, he could be considered completely free on those days. According to the Mishnah Achrona however, since the owner must free the servant, it is no longer clear or defined when the servant is free and when it is not, so he is not obligated in Re’iya. The Sefat Emet however finds this explanation difficult.
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