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Exodus 21:26 is about letting a (Canaanite - Rashi) slave go free if they are injured by their owner. This appears to be a good thing, but I'm also wondering if it would be detrimental to a slave to be freed when they have now lost an eye.

I guess I see slavery at that time as similar to employment of today. The Hebrews were to treat their slaves well. It's not really that different from having a job in today's world - except room and board was provided. So would freeing a slave be like firing an employee, and then the former slave having to go find a new owner?

Am I entirely wrong in my understanding of this culture?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Good question.

A freed slave did not go to another master. He obtained the status of a full-fledged Jew. (In fact, many of the laws pertaining to converts in the Talmud are actually phrased as "converts and freed slaves.")

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Was a slave not a Jew? – Charles Koppelman Mar 9 '14 at 20:33
@CharlesKoppelman, a slave has a quasi-Jewish status. He can't eat pork, but doesn't have to hear megillah reading. When he is freed, he is given full Jewish status. (There's a separate legal category, the full-fledged Jew who is sold for monetary reasons, but that's not what we're discussing here.) – Shalom Mar 9 '14 at 20:39
@Shalom Good points, all. Can you use them to answer the question as asked - how will the freed slave find employment? – LN6595 Feb 9 '15 at 2:24

There's a Talmudic principle known as "זכין לאדם שלא בפניו," that one can acquire something for a person, even if they don't know about it, so long as it is something positive for the person. (The opposite rule is that "אין חבין לאדם אלא בפניו," that one can only create a negative situation for a person if that person is present, and agrees.)

The Talmud discusses (e.g., Bava Metzia 19a) whether one may acquire a גט שחרור (an emancipation document) for a slave if he is not present, which hinges on the question of whether it is a זכות (benefit) for him or not. I believe that it is assumed that most agree that the conclusion of that discussion is that it is, indeed, a benefit for a slave to be free.

The Rambam rules (Avadim 5:2; English) that it is a benefit for a slave to be freed.

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