I've already asked a couple of questions on the counting of the 248 body organs, see the list. Lately, I asked some question on slavery and here's where those topics cross.

The Gemmorah in Kiddushin 24a and Rambam Avadim 5, 4-5 count the organs which damage sets the Cananian slave free:

ד. "כֵּיצַד בְּרָאשֵׁי אֵיבָרִים: הַמַּכֶּה אֶת עַבְדּוֹ בְּכַוָּנָה וְחָסְרוּ אֶחָד מֵעֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבָּעָה רָאשֵׁי אֵיבָרִים שֶׁאֵינָן חוֹזְרִין יָצָא לְחֵרוּת"...
ה. "...אֶצְבְּעוֹת יָדַיִם וְרַגְלַיִם עֶשְׂרִים רָאשֵׁי הָאָזְנַיִם וְרֹאשׁ הַחֹטֶם וְרֹאשׁ הַגְּוִיָּה וְרָאשֵׁי הַדָּדִין שֶׁבָּאִשָּׁה. אֲבָל הָעֵינַיִם וְהַשִּׁנַּיִם הֲרֵי הֵן מְפֹרָשִׁין בַּתּוֹרָה:

When counting these 24 organs I noticed some controversies (should I post each as a different question?):

  1. Mishnah in Ohalot (1:8) states that "מָאתַיִם וְאַרְבָּעִים וּשְׁמֹנָה אֵבָרִים בָּאָדָם, שְׁלשִׁים בְּפִסַּת הָרֶגֶל, שִׁשָּׁה בְכָל אֶצְבַּע," - there are 6 limbs in each finger, but for the slave each finger counts as one - why?

  2. How come that this number - 24 limbs - excludes the organs mentioned in the Torah - the eyes and the teeth? The original Mishna in Negayim 6,7 deals explicitly with "ראשי אברים" - limbs that "protrude", that's why it does not mention neither the eyes nor the teeth.

  3. The nose: while the fingers or the eyes are vital organs for slave's work, what about the nose? How can it be damaged - does it mean breaking the bone or losing the sense of smell?

  4. Rambam continues: "אֲבָל הַמְסָרֵס עַבְדּוֹ בַּבֵּיצִים אוֹ הַחוֹתֵךְ לְשׁוֹנוֹ אֵינוֹ יוֹצֵא לְחֵרוּת שֶׁאֵינָן מוּמִין שֶׁבְּגָלוּי.". So what can be said about רֹאשׁ הַגְּוִיָּה, isn't it a hidden part?

  5. The ears: Torah mentions hitting on the ear and making deaf, on the other hand, the Mishnah mentions ראשי אברים. What would happen if one cuts his slave's outer ear without impairing his hearing?

  • 1
    Why is ראש הגויה any less exposed than, say, ראשי הדדין? I think #4 should ask why castration isn’t considered an external blemish, rather than asking why ראש הגויה is.
    – DonielF
    Feb 6, 2019 at 0:22
  • @DonielF I understood that ביצים are hidden while רה"ג is not.
    – Al Berko
    Feb 6, 2019 at 0:30
  • Right...so if your question is why ראש הגויה isn’t, I’d think the answer is just that it’s on the outside (in contrast to, say, a tongue, which spends most of its time inside your mouth - and we don’t hold like Rebbi that that sets the slave free). The better question IMO is why ביצים are considered internal.
    – DonielF
    Feb 6, 2019 at 0:32
  • @DonielF What about the teeth? Are they less hidden than the tongue?
    – Al Berko
    Feb 6, 2019 at 0:39
  • Presumably yes, since the teeth are only covered by the lips, but the tongue is covered by both the lips and the teeth. I was mistaken - it’s Ben Azzai who holds that a tongue also sets him free; Rebbi holds that castration is included. Seemingly, the question is why each one holds that the later opinions aren’t exposed enough - hence, why I feel the question should be why ביצים aren’t exposed, rather than the other way around, as everyone agrees ראש הגויה sets him free. (Another proof that 24 isn’t special, by the way, as Ben Azzai’s opinion raises it to 26, 27 if ביצים count as two.)
    – DonielF
    Feb 6, 2019 at 1:00

1 Answer 1


To answer at least your first three questions: Read the Rambam again, more carefully this time.

1. How are the fingers counted?

אֶצְבְּעוֹת יָדַיִם וְרַגְלַיִם עֶשְׂרִים

Fingers of the hands and feet - twenty.

i.e. each finger and toe counts as an independent “organ”. Yes, there are six “organs” in each finger, but it’s only the ones at the ends that set him free.

2. Why aren’t the eyes and teeth included?

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.

If so, why does the Torah say “tooth” and “eye”? To learn from them: just as the tooth and eye are external blemishes that do not return, so too all external blemishes that do not return - the slave goes out to freedom through it.

The 24 limbs are the ones learned out from the teeth and eyes, so of course those aren’t included. In the words of the Kesef Mishnah:

אבל העינים וכו'. כלומר ואין צריך למנותם:

”But the eyes [and teeth are in the passuk],” that is to say, there’s no need to list them.

Of course the slave goes free by his eye and tooth - these 24 “organs” are the novelty.

3. How does the nose factor into this?

First of all, where do you get vitality to work from? A slave can work just fine with one less tooth. The issue is only if it’s an external blemish, and if it won’t grow back.

Putting that aside, the Rambam does not say that the slave goes free from losing his nose. His wording is the slave’s

ראש החטם

tip of the nose.

Since it has to be an injury which can’t grow back, breaking his nose doesn’t set him free - nothing’s been dislodged permanently off of his face. Clearly he means that the master managed to tear the cartilage bit off of the tip of the slave’s nose.

  • Thank you, your answers require me to fine-tune my questions. 1. Fingers - Rambam does not mention how many sub-parts of the fingers are considered "a finger" 2. Nose: I didn't understand the idea of beating - for eyes it's losing sight, for ears it's losing hearing but for the nose - it says nothing about losing the sense of smell. Otherwise, if one cut the external ear or a part of it, would it be considered setting free?
    – Al Berko
    Feb 6, 2019 at 0:34
  • I didn't understand the reason for counting 24 excluding the original. Is it a magic number? Some Kabbole? It should read 24+2+32! Similar to my other question about organs it seems that the number was known while the details weren't. I know others count it differently. Rambam thought this excuse will work and it apparently does for some.
    – Al Berko
    Feb 6, 2019 at 0:41
  • 1. It doesn’t matter how many - since it’s only ראשי אברים that matters, once the tip comes off he’s free, regardless of what else comes off. 2. The classic case of שן ועין is that the organ comes out - that he literally loses his eye, not that he simply goes blind. Yes, he goes free if the master attacks the eye directly and he loses his vision but not his eyeball, but that’s not the main case. Loss of functionality isn’t even what sets him free - consider §6, that he goes free for losing an extra finger that does nothing anyway.
    – DonielF
    Feb 6, 2019 at 0:44
  • 3. The wording of the Mishnah the Rambam quotes seems to indicate that it happens to be there are 24 such organs, not that we know there are 24 organs and let’s see which ones fit our criteria. Going back to the original Mishnah it’s clear why it’s phrased as 24+2, as שן ועין are unique to a slave, but the others have halachic ramifications elsewhere (the Mishnah’s discussion actually revolves around צרעת). The discussion’s in Kiddushin 25a if you want to see it inside.
    – DonielF
    Feb 6, 2019 at 0:47
  • I edited the question to elaborate the Kushiot. #2 is specifically important - do you know similar miscounting? I noted that the discussion does not fit the original Mishnah in Negayim, see details.
    – Al Berko
    Feb 6, 2019 at 14:01

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