Pisqa’ 122

Pisqa’ 1221


“And you shall take the awl” (Dt.15:17).

On what basis do I know

to include [among the boring tools]

a thorn, a piece of sharp glass, or a reed-sliver?

For it is said:

“You shall take” (Dt.15:17)–

[any appropriate tool]:

words of R. Yose b. R. Judah.

Rabbi says:

“The awl” (Dt.15:17)—

since the awl is distinguished,

in being made of metal,

I might infer that

[the tool used in the piercing]

can only be made of metal.2

On this basis R. Ishmael would say:3

in three issues the legal tradition

goes beyond what is specified in Scripture.

[Regarding sacrificial slaughter,] the Torah said:

“And you shall spill out its blood and cover it with dirt” (Lv.17:12),

while the legal tradition teaches:

Cover it with anything

that causes vegetation to sprout. 4

[Regarding a document of divorce,] the Torah said:

“And he shall write for her a writ of separation” (Dt.24:1),

while the legal tradition teaches:

He may write it on anything

that is detached from the earth.5

Finally, the Torah said:

“With an awl” (Ex.21:6),

while the legal tradition teaches:

Pierce the ear with anything [sharp enough].6

Rabbi says:

“His owner shall bring him to the door or doorpost” (Ex.21:6)—

he should be standing upright

[so that his ear is level to the doorpost].7


“Awl” (Dt.15:17)—

this refers to a large awl.

“And you shall take the awl” (Dt.15:17)—

shall I infer that

[the piercing is done] privately,

between the two of them?

The Teaching states:

“Then his owner shall bring him before the Authority8 (‘elohim; Ex.21:6)—

Here, Authority refers to the judges (dayanim; e.g., Ex.22:8),

who then present him [for sale] to traders. 9

“With an awl” (Ex.21:6)—

Anything that makes a mark.10

Said R. Elazar:

doesn’t Yudan, our colleague, expounded that

they only pierce the ear-lobe?

But sages say:

a priest may not be pierced,

lest he become blemished.

If he is pierced through the ear-lobe,

how can he become blemished?

In fact, this teaches that

they may only pierce the upper part of the ear.


R. Meir says:

he may also pierce the cartilage.

In any case, R. Meir says:

a priest is not to be pierced.11


“Drive it through his ear” (Dt.15:17).

Here ear is mentioned,

and elsewhere, [in connection with a purification rite,]

ear (Lv.14:14) is mentioned.

Just as ear mentioned elsewhere is the right ear,

ear mentioned here is also the right ear—

at the upper tip of the ear.12

“Through his ear and the door” (Dt.15:17).

Is it possible to say that

[the awl must be driven through]

the side of his ear?

The Teaching states:

Through his ear and the door” (Dt.15:17)—

this explains that he drives it

through the ear into the door.

“Thus, he shall be your slave forever “ (`olam: Dt.15:17)—

as long as the master is [alive] in his world” (`olamo),

even if he is sold thirty or forty years before the Jubilee.

On this basis you can teach:

a Hebrew slave serves the son,

but he does not serve the daughter.

[Once he is] pierced,

he serves neither the son nor the daughter

[but only the father].13


How do I know that

the principle taught here

[i.e., that the pierced slave serves only the father]

applies elsewhere,

and the principle taught elsewhere

applies here?

The Teaching states:

[“He will be your slave] forever” (Dt.15:17) and

[He will serve him] forever” (Ex.21:6).

This similarity permits an analogical inference

[that the slave has no obligations to the owner’s children].

“You shall do this also with your slave-girl” (Dt.15:17).

You shall provide for her [when she goes free].

Is it possible to say that

she may also be pierced?

The Teaching states:

“If the slave forcefully declares” (Ex.21:5)—

the slave may be pierced, but not the slave-girl!

  1. H:166-168; JN1:303-304.
  2. // Mechilta Ishmael, neziqin, 2.
  3. F: 180-181 notes that the versions of Mechilta Ishmael appearing in Pisqa’ 122 may have been contributed by scribes who post-date the compilation of Sifre.
  4. =M. Hul. 6:6.
  5. Cf. M. Git. 2:4.
  6. //Mechilta Ishmael, neziqin, 2.
  7. // Mechilta Ishmael, neziqin, 2.
  8. Normally, ‘elohim refers to God, although where exegetical necessity dictates, midrashic tradition stipulates that a human court is meant.
  9. = Mechilta Ishmael, neziqin, 2.
  10. // Mechilta Ishmael, neziqin, 2.
  11. // Mechilta Ishmael, neziqin, 2.
  12. // Mechilta Ishmael, neziqin, 2.
  13. Cf. Mechilta Ishmael, neziqin, 2.