Injury to a Slave (87A) - part 1 of 2
[Editor’s note: Due to the length of this shiur, it is being split into two shiurim.]
In the framework of the mishna on p. 87a, we will deal today with the law governing a non-Jewish slave, primarily as a nichval (the victim of an injury inflicted by others or by his master), but also as a chovel (one who causes an injury to others). We will conclude with a case that combines the issues – a non-Jewish slave who causes an injury to himself.
I. One who causes an injury to a non-Jewish slave belonging to another person
One who injures a non-Jewish slave belonging to another person is liable for all [five payments]. Rabbi Yehuda says: No boshet (humiliation) is paid in the case of non-Jewish slaves. (87a)
The discussion in our mishna does not revolve around the question of who receives the payments imposed in the case of injury, but rather it focuses on the very existence of such liability. As a rule the master is entitled to such payments, and we will deal with this matter later in the shiur, but the focus here is the obligation itself. Here, apart from the Tannaitic disagreement regarding boshet, which we will not deal with today, all is clear – chovel bi-eved shel acherim (one who injures a non-Jewish slave belonging to another person) is liable for the five payments ordinarily imposed on the offender.
This, however, is not self-evident. As we know, the payments imposed in the case of chovel, apart from the payment made for nezek, are unique to the case of a chovel, and they do not apply in the case of a person who causes an injury to another person's animal. As for a slave, one might have thought that since a non-Jewish slave is regarded as chattel that is absolutely owned by his master, he should be treated like property, so that an injury inflicted upon him should be considered like damage done to another person's property, rather than an injury inflicted upon a person. The mishna, however, teaches that this is not so. This duality characterizes a non-Jewish slave: on the one hand, we do not say that since he is a human-being, he does not fall into the category of chattel, but on the other hand, we do not say that since he is chattel, he does not fall into the category of a subject, a person who among other things can become liable as a chovel and also cause a person who was chovel him to become liable for the five payments. We will return to this issue later in the shiur.
As for the party who is entitled to receive the payments, it is generally agreed, as stated above, that it is the master who is entitled to receive the payments. Here, however, there is a fundamental question, whether the master is seen as the injured party and therefore directly entitled to the payments, or whether perhaps the slave is viewed as the injured party and the person directly entitled to the payments, and the master becomes entitled to the payments by virtue of the law that "ma she-kana eved kana rabbo" ("whatever is acquired by a slave is acquired by his master"). If at this point this question seems vague and abstract, I hope that it will be sharpened over the course of the shiur with the practical ramifications that stem from it.
At the outset, I would like to repeat a point regarding an injury inflicted upon a slave that was addressed already in the first shiur on chapter Ha-Chovel. The Minchat Chinukh (commandment 49, no. 25) relates to the Rambam's position that liability for the nezek in a case of chovel is regarded as a kenas, and proposes an exceedingly novel idea:
It is clear to me that a chovel bi-eved shel acherim is liable to pay his master the five payments… In such a case the payment for nezek is not a kenas, so that he should be exempt if he admits having caused the injury, for a person's slave is like his ox and other chattel… Thus he is like a person who caused damage to another person's ox, in which case the payment for the damage is a chiyyuv mamon, and he is liable even if he admits having caused the injury.
In the previous shiur we expressed our reservations about this novel idea. As we saw, also in the case of a free person who suffered an injury, there would have been room to relate to his body as damaged property and impose liability for the depreciation as a monetary payment, for when an animal causes an injury to a person, its master is liable for the damage as a monetary payment. The Rambam's position is based on the fact that the unique stringency in the case of a chovel be-meizid (one who intentionally causes an injury to another person) cancels the ordinary monetary obligation and shifts the liability to that of a kofer (ransom) for the injured organs. This stringency exists also in the case of a non-Jewish slave, as the prohibition to cause an injury is valid with respect to him as well, and the law applying to him, as established by our mishna that is quoted also in the words of the Minchat Chinukh, is like that of a person, the injury of whom imposes liability for the five payments. Therefore, there is no reason not to say that according to the Rambam here too the obligation is defined as a kenas and kofer for the injured organs. [At the end of this shiur we will see a case, unique in my opinion, where an intentional injury to a person is considered like damage done to property.]
There is, however, room to adopt a certain point assumed by the Minchat Chinukh, namely, that the injured party with respect to the payment made for the injury is the master. That is to say, it is incorrect to say that the slave is entitled to this payment, and the reason that the master collects it is that "ma she-kana eved kana rabbo." The payment made for the injury is compensation for the depreciation in value of the damaged item, i.e., the injured body, and in this case the owner of the damaged item is not the slave, but rather his master. This is implied by Rashi in Gittin on a passage to which we will yet return: "It was not necessary [to mention] his damage, i.e., the value of his hand, as it is obvious that it is paid to his master, for he caused him a monetary loss" (12b, s.v. u-refu'ato). It would seem that the same is true, and all the more so, regarding liability for shevet (loss of livelihood), which stems from the loss of potential wages that belong to the master, a matter that we will expand upon below. As for tza’ar (pain) and boshet, however, it stands to reason that the party entitled to the compensation is the slave, for these payments are based on the suffering of the slave, and the master receives them only by virtue of the law that "ma she-kana eved kana rabbo."
In any event regarding nezek, the position of Rashi and the Minchat Chinukh is clear. It should be noted that the case of chovel bi-eved (one who injures a slave) presents us with the rare split between the person suffering an injury and the owner of the injured body – the person who actually suffered the injury is the slave, but the owner of the body is his master. As stated, it seems from Rashi that the person entitled to payment for the nezek is the owner of the injured body. This position accords with the general approach in the laws of nezek, according to which the party entitled to compensation is the owner of the damaged article, and not the damaged article itself. We asked in the past whether liability for damage is for the damage caused the article or for the damage caused to the person, but it is clear that the party entitled to demand payment is not the article but the person. This is true not only because the article is not fit to demand payment, but because the basic liability is toward the party that suffered the damage. When, for example, a person causes damage to an ownerless item, from the perspective of the laws of nezek, there is no damage.
It would seem that there is room for a different approach to the payment made for injury in the case of a chovel bi-eved. It may be argued that liability for damage in the case of an injury is different from the regular laws of nezek, and this obligation is toward the party who actually suffered the injury and not its owner. Surely we are dealing (especially according to the Rambam who says that the payment made for injury is a kenas) with a unique liability that comes in place of "an eye for an eye" – a kofer for the injured organs, rather than compensation for the financial loss that was caused. The replacement for "an eye for an eye" is a monetary payment, and this payment is meant for the person who was injured. Since we have established that a slave is a human being with respect to injury, it is he who is entitled to the payment made for the injury, but in practice the master acquires it because of the law that "ma she-kana eved kana rabbo."
However, as was demonstrated by the Acharonim, this proposal is contradicted by the Gemara in Gittin 42b. The Gemara there deals with a most interesting halakhic figure: A non-Jewish slave who lacks his deed of emancipation. We are dealing with a slave whose master no longer has monetary rights to him, but nevertheless he is not a free person, and he remains – at least with respect to his personal standing according to the laws of Yoreh De'a – with the status of a non-Jewish slave, as he has not yet received his deed of emancipation. As the Ramban writes in Gittin 38b:
There are two kinyanim regarding a non-Jewish slave: a monetary kinyan, i.e., for the work of his hands, and a bodily kinyan that imposes prohibition. This is similar to the kinyan of marriage in a married woman, and it can only be cancelled through a deed of emancipation, even if the monetary kinyan in him was already cancelled, e.g., where [the slave's owner] declared him ownerless or despaired from finding him.
The master of a slave who lacks his deed of emancipation is not entitled to the slave's handiwork, and it would seem that he is no longer governed by the law that "ma she-kana eved kana rabbo." For our purposes, the Gemara raises a question regarding a case where a mu'ad ox (an ox with an established propensity for goring) gores and kills a slave who lacks his deed of emancipation. In such a case the Torah imposes a kenas on the owner of the ox: "He shall give to his master thirty shekels of silver" (Shemot 21:32). The Gemara is in doubt whether the master of a slave who lacks his deed of emancipation is entitled to this kenas: "The Torah says: 'To his master,' and this [man] is not his master; or perhaps since the slave still lacks a deed of emancipation, we do call him a master." What is important for us is that the Gemara is quick to clarify that if the master is entitled to the kenas in such a case, he is also entitled to compensation for injury in a case of chovel bi-eved when the slave lacks his deed of emancipation. The Tosafot (ad loc., s.v. chavli) relate to this assumption, and explain it as follows:
Even though his handiwork belongs to himself, since the kenas goes to his master, payment for injury also goes to his master, for what is the difference between killing him entirely and killing him partially?
The Tosafot say that we can see the payment for chovel in this context as a partial version of the kenas of thirty shekels, and if the master is entitled to the kenas, he should also be entitled to the payment for injury. According to the simple understanding, the payment for injury under discussion here is the payment for nezek, which is the payment that parallels the kenas of thirty shekels, which is liability for the loss of the slave.
What can we learn from this Gemara regarding our question whether a chovel bi-eved that belongs to another person is liable for payment for the injury to the slave, and the master collects the payment by virtue of the law that "ma she-kana eved kana rabbo"; or whether the initial liability is already to the master? First of all, the matter is decided in favor of the second option, for we are dealing here with a situation where the law that "ma she-kana eved kana rabbo" does not apply, and nevertheless it is at least possible that the master is entitled to payment for the injury. It cannot be argued that the Gemara in Gittin is in doubt about this very point, because the initial doubt is not about injury but about the kenas, and the Gemara clarifies that we are dealing with a doubt regarding the definition of "master" in the interesting situation of a slave who lacks his deed of emancipation.
Another thing that may be learned from the Gemara in Gittin, at least in the framework of the possibility that the kenas is paid to the master, is that the idea that underlies the understanding that we just rejected, that we must distinguish between the party who is ordinarily entitled to damage payments and the party who is entitled to payment for injury, remains in place. Surely it is an astonishing law – the master has no monetary rights in the slave, but nevertheless he is entitled to the payment for injury.
This is a difficult position to justify in the ordinary context of the laws of nezek. We are forced to the conclusion that, at least according to this possibility in the Gemara, we are not dealing with ordinary monetary compensation, but to unique liabilities that the Torah imposed in the form of a thirty shekel penalty in the case of an ox that killed a slave and in the form of a kofer for the injured organs in the case of a chovel bi-eved. These liabilities do not relate to the owner of the property that was damaged, but rather to the person who suffered the injury, only that in the case of a non-Jewish slave, the master is the person in whose name the slave is registered! The slave's basic identity is "the slave of X," and therefore the payments that are meant personally for the slave go directly to his master. This belonging is not monetary, put personal. Therefore, it is at least possible that it remains in place even when the master has no monetary rights in the slave, when he lacks nothing but his deed of emancipation. That is to say, even though we adduced proof from the Gemara in Gittin to the Minchat Chinukh's understanding that the party that is fundamentally entitled to the compensation is the master, were the law in accordance with his position that a chovel bi-eved is liable as one who causes damage to another person's property, we would be unable to understand that Gemara. The Gemara is only understandable because of the unique nature of liability in the case of injury, which is valid even in the case where the injury is caused to a slave.
Liability for shevet in a case of chovel bi-eved SHEL ACHERIM
In light of what was said above, it seems obvious that if a person caused an injury to a non-Jewish slave who lacked his deed of emancipation, it is the slave who is entitled to collect the compensation for shevet, and not the master, because it is the slave who suffers a monetary loss owing to the shevet, and the rule that "ma she-kana eved kana rabbo" also does not apply. I therefore find it astonishing that the Tosafot Rosh thinks otherwise:
Even shevet, even though he is idled from his work, since it because of the injury to his body, and the kenas goes to his master, what is the difference between killing him entirely and killing him partially?
The Rosh argues that according to the possibility that the master is entitled to the kenas of thirty shekels, and in keeping with the argument that we saw already in the Tosafot, "what is the difference between killing him entirely and killing him partially," compensation for shevet is also included in the master's entitlement to the payments made for the injury. As stated, this is astonishing, because compensation for shevet is a clear chiyyuv mamon (according to all opinions), and it is difficult to understand how the master can be entitled to it, since he suffers no monetary loss whatsoever from the slave's loss of earning potential, as he no longer belongs to him.
In the context of liability for shevet, I wish to note the position of the Netivot ha-Mishpat, 363, no. 2. The Netivot relates to the law regarding theft appearing later in the tractate (96b), according to which slaves are compared to landed property and therefore cannot be stolen. Accordingly, if a person stole a slave and the slave grew old, the thief can say to the owner: "Your slave stands before you." The Netivot asks: Why doesn't the thief bear the liability of one who caused an injury to a slave? For surely we learned above (p. 85b) that causing a person to be idle from his work is treated like injury with respect to liability for shevet. Why then is the thief not liable to pay the slave's owner for the shevet, as if he had injured him?
The core of the answer to this question is simple, and appears also in the words of the Netivot: Payments made to the master for the injury caused to his slave are payments for injury. As we emphasized above, the fundamental point that follows from our mishna is that an injury caused to a non-Jewish slave is not ordinary damage caused to another person's property, but rather injury, like any injury caused to another person, which creates liability for the five payments. Therefore, if the thief locked the slave in a room, he would be liable for his shevet, as in the case of one who locked another person in a room. The person who would be entitled to collect this compensation is of course the master. The law found on p. 96b states that stealing a slave from his master, despite the loss caused to the master, is not a case of damage that creates liability. This is not remarkable, as we know that a person who deprives another person from making a profit is exempt, as this is merely gerama. As stated, even the Netivot agrees with this.
The Netivot, however, takes the matter a step further, and writes that the unique payments imposed in a case of chovel, i.e., the four payments, apply only in the case of a person who is obligated in the commandments, and the slave is the person who is fundamentally entitled to them, and the master becomes entitled to them based on the rule that "ma she-kana eved kana rabbo." It turns out then that the Netivot distinguishes in a manner opposite to that which we proposed above. We proposed that logically there is room to say that the payment for nezek, like the kofer for injured organs, belongs basically to the party who actually suffered the injury, but compensation for shevet - which is a clear chiyyuv mamon – is paid to the party who suffered the loss, i.e., the owner of the work potential, namely, the master. The Netivot maintains the reverse: the payment for nezek, which is similar to the ordinary payment for damage, is made to the owner of the injured article, i.e., the master. Compensation for shevet, on the other hand, which is a payment unique to chovel, is paid to the person who suffered the injury, and the master receives it only because of the rule that "ma she-kana eved kana rabbo." In my opinion, this is exceedingly difficult, for we are dealing with a financial loss that the slave does not suffer. Why then should there be any liability to him?
In any event, we can summarize the discussion concerning liability for shevet in the case of one chovel bi-eved shel acherim, by saying that the simple understanding is that even though the liability is created in the wake of an injury caused to a person, i.e., the slave, the person who is entitled to the payment is the master, owing to the monetary nature of the liability. Against this understanding arose opponents from opposing directions: the Tosafot Rosh maintains that this is a liability toward the master even when he has no monetary rights in the slave, because he is the party by whom the slave is called. The Netivot, on the other hand, maintains that the party entitled to the payment is the slave himself, even when the monetary rights belong to the master. Both shift the liability for shevet away from the monetary rights in the slave. In my opinion, the matter requires further study.
Liability for ripuy in a case of chovel bi-eved shel acherim
A novel point regarding this issue appears in the Gemara in Gittin 12b:
The Master said: He must compensate his master for his shevet and ripuy. [What need is there to tell me this in] the case of shevet, which is obvious? Shevet is mentioned because the payment for ripuy [had to be mentioned]. Surely the payment for ripuy goes to the slave, for he needs it for his cure. This must be stated in view of a case where it was calculated that he requires five days [of treatment] and by the application of a painful remedy he was cured in three. You might think that in this case [the whole of the estimated medical cost goes to the slave since] the extra pain is his; but now know [that it does not].
"Surely the payment for ripuy goes to the slave, for he needs them for his cure." It is clear to the Gemara that the payment for ripuy is not money that is paid to the master for him to spend as he sees fit; rather it is earmarked exclusively for the healing of the slave. From this the Kovetz Shiurim (Ketubot, 218) reaches the conclusion, already mentioned several times over the course of these shiurim, that liability for ripuy is not a chiyyuv mamon, but rather an obligation to heal the injured party, which in practice finds expression in covering the medical costs. Since the obligation is to heal, there is no monetary entitlement that the master acquires by way of the rule that "ma she-kana eved kana rabbo," and the obligation cast upon the person who caused the injury is to heal the slave. Other Acharonim disagree with this idea, and in the shiur about liability for ripuy we noted that even the Rambam implies otherwise. According to this viewpoint, it must be understood that even though the obligation is a chiyyuv mamon, it is an obligation the basis of which is the sum paid to the doctor, and if it is decided not to heal the injured party, there is no longer any foundation to impose liability for ripuy. In my opinion, however, the Gemara's wording, "The payment for healing goes to the slave," tends more in the direction of the Kovetz Shiurim, that we are dealing here with an entitlement belonging to the slave. If we would like to integrate this with the previous sections of the shiur, the liability for ripuy – like the payments for tza'ar and boshet – is an obligation whose primary beneficiary is the slave, and owing to its non-monetary nature, it is not governed by the rule that "ma she-kana eved kana rabbo."
As we noted in the shiur regarding ripuy, according to the understanding that the obligation is not to pay but to heal, it turns out that the manner of assessment regarding the payment for ripuy is more revolutionary than that regarding the other payments, and it translates an obligation to heal into a chiyyuv mamon. In any event, it is clear that if money that had been intended for the healing of the slave is left over in the hands of the slave, the master is entitled to it, if only because of the rule that "ma she-kana eved kana rabbo." There is no difficulty in the words of the aforementioned Gemara regarding the entitlement of the master in the case of expedited healing. Rashi there explains that the Gemara's initial assumption relies on the understanding – novel in my opinion – that when they healed the slave quickly with the stronger medication, and this presumably caused him great pain, the money saved is considered like payment for tza'ar, and there might have been room to think that the slave should be entitled to the payment for tza'ar. In light of the rule that "ma she-kana eved kana rabbo" we understand that the master is also entitled to the payment for tza'ar, and there was never any doubt about this. Nevertheless on the intuitive level, it can be understood why we might have though that when the slave saves his master the cost of healing, and for this he suffers pain, he should be entitled to the savings. In any event, according to the conclusion, the Gemara applies the rule that "ma she-kana eved kana rabbo" here as well.
We will return to the law governing liability for ripuy in the case of a non-Jewish slave in the next section as well.
 Owing to the length of the shiur, we will not be able to deal with the law governing an injury to a Jewish slave. For those who wish to study the matter on their own, see the law as discussed in the mishna, p. 87a; the disagreement between Abaye and Rava on p. 86a; and the Rishonim ad loc.: Tosafot; Rashba; Shita Mekubetzet in the name of the Rama, Rabbeinu Yonatan, and the Gaon; Rambam, Hilkhot Chovel u-Mazik 4:13; Penei Yehoshua on the mishna on p. 87a.
 There is an important passage related to this issue that will not be addressed in this shiur. For those who wish to study it on their own, see: p. 27a, "ve-amar Rabba: Heni'ach lo gachelet…" until the end of the chapter; Rashi; Tosafot, s.v. heni'ach; Rambam and Ra'avad, Hilkhot Chovel u-Mazik 4:22.
 A point to consider: According to what is argued in the shiur, it turns out that a non-Jewish slave is not unique in being seen as property – every person is property, only that he is his own property (or that of God), whereas the slave is owned by his master. From here it may be concluded that the essence of a non-Jewish slave is defined by the fact that he has a master, and in the absence of a master, there is no slave. See, however, the law codified by the Rambam (Hilkhot Zekhiya u-Matana 2:17, in accordance with Abba Shaul in Gittin 39a): "The following rules apply when a convert dies and Jews take possession of his property. If the estate contains adult non-Jewish slaves, they acquire their freedom. But minor children are regarded as [ed. - i.e., have the same rules as] livestock. Whoever manifests ownership over them acquires them." From this ruling we see that it is possible to find a slave who is ownerless so that whoever manifests ownership over him acquires him. That is to say, there is a slave without a master, and in contrast to an ordinary person, he can be acquired by way of a kinyan. Does it follow from here that an ordinary person is not property, whereas a slave is? It is possible that that this is not the case. In the case of an ordinary person, the starting point is the presumption that he is in his own possession (or that of God), and therefore he is not ownerless. But in the the case of a slave there is no such starting point, and according to Abba Shaul whose position was accepted by the Rambam, the slave is defined as a slave until he acquires himself. As for the position of the Sages, it is possible that this starting point is valid for the slave as well, and so from the moment that he has no master he is defined as being in his own possession (or that of God; see Tosafot Rosh and Meiri, Gittin 39a). I have difficulty identifying with the words of Rav Kook in his Iggerot, where he writes: "Whoever was made a slave, will always be a slave, even if he has no buyer, 'for his mouth presses upon him.' According to the ways of morality, the best thing that can happen to the lowest of human beings is to become the slaves of noble people" (Iggerot ha-Ra'aya, I, 90, 2).
 On the assumption that there is liability for boshet in the case of an injury caused to a slave. As for ripuy, the issue is more complicated, and will be discussed below.
 See Chiddushei ha-Grach al Shas, no. 121; Iggerot ha-Grid ha-Levi, p. 246.
 There is an exceptional position among the Rishonim that understands the Gemara that there is a way that does not contradict the understanding that we have suggested, namely, the position of the author of the novellae to Gittin published by Mosad HaRav Kook under the title Chiddushim mi-Ketav Yad (ad loc., s.v. vedachinan dilma). The author has difficulty with the Gemara and writes that indeed in a case where the master declares his slave ownerless, and he really loses his monetary rights to him, it is obvious that the slave is entitled to all the payments made for the injury. According to him, we are dealing there with a case where the master is obligated by rabbinic decree to emancipate his slave, e.g., in a situation where the slave is half-slave and half-free man (mishna, Gittin 41a), and according to his understanding – at least according to the alternative that the fine of thirty shekels goes to the master – the Sages did not cancel his monetary rights in the slave, but merely established that he cannot force the slave to work for him. If the slave performed work, the master is entitled to it, and it stands to reason that the rule that "ma she-kana eved kana rabbo" applies as well. According to this position, the understanding that we proposed is possible, but it appears that this position is exceptional among the Rishonim.
 In contrast to what we have said, see Kovetz Shiurim, Ketubot, no. 217, who derives from this Gemara a general principle regarding payment for damage.
 So too writes the Penei Yehoshua, ad loc.
 To complete the picutre regarding impairment of the non-Jewish slave's work potential, I wish to note that the Gemara in Gittin 12b brings the words of Rabbi Yochanan that a chovel bi-eved shel acherim pays the shevet to his master, and the slave supports himself from charity. According to the Gemara's conclusion there, it is possible to learn from this that a master can say to his slave: "Asei imi ve-eini zankha" ("Work for me, but I will not maintain you") – you are my property, and obligated to work for me, but I have no obligations to you. According to this conclusion, when the slave is well, the master can demand that he work for him during the day, and that he go out and beg for food at night; and when the slave is unable to work, the master receives the payment for shevet and the slave must ask for charity. The moral difficulty here (without relating at all to the morality of the very institution of slavery} is blatant and difficult to digest. The Rambam (Hilkhot Avadim 9:7-8) seems to be disturbed by the matter, and deals with the problem on two levels. On one level, the Rambam clarifies that while this is the strict law, this is not the way of the Torah or the way of Israel:
It is permissible to have a non-Jewish slave perform excruciating labor. Although this is the law, the attribute of piety and the way of wisdom is for a person to be merciful and to pursue justice, not to make his slaves carry a heavy yoke, nor cause them distress. He should allow them to partake of all the food and drink he serves. This was the practice of the Sages of the early generations who would give their slaves from every dish of which they themselves would partake. And they would provide food for their animals and slaves before partaking of their own meals. And so, it is written (Tehilim 123:2): "As the eyes of slaves to their master's hand, and like the eyes of a maidservant to her mistress' hand, so are our eyes to God."
Similarly, we should not embarrass a slave by our deeds or with words, for the Torah prescribed that they perform service, not that they be humiliated. Nor should one shout or vent anger upon them extensively. Instead, one should speak to them gently, and listen to their claims. This is explicitly stated with regard to the positive paths of Iyyov for which he was praised (Iyyov 31:13, 15): "Have I ever shunned justice for my slave and maidservant when they quarreled with me… Did not He who made me in the belly make him? Was it not the One who prepared us in the womb?"
Cruelty and arrogance are found only among idol-worshipping gentiles. By contrast, the descendants of Avraham our patriarch, i.e., the Jews whom the Holy One, blessed be He, granted the goodness of the Torah and commanded to observe righteous statutes and judgments, are merciful to all.
And similarly, with regard to the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He, which He commanded us to emulate, it is written (Tehilim 145:9): "His mercies are upon all of His works." And whoever shows mercy to others will have mercy shown to him, as it is stated (Devarim 13:18): "He will show you mercy, and be merciful upon you and multiply you."
On a second level, the Rambam deals with the question why it is correct to establish a different rule by strict law, and he proposes the following answer: "For the court does not take any steps to protect the property of adults. If a person does not provide food and drink for his slaves in a fitting manner, they will flee or die. And a person has greater concern for his own money than anyone else."
See also the words of the Tur (Yoreh De'a 267) who qualifies the master's right to say: "Asei imi ve-eini zankha": "When does this apply that he can say: 'Asei imi ve-eini zankha?' In ordinary years when he can find merciful people who will show mercy to him. But in a year of drought, he cannot say to him: 'Asei imi ve-eini zankha.'" It seems that even according to the Rambam, the right to say: "Asei imi ve-eini zankha," is conditioned on the slave's ability to maintain himself on charity, for the Rambam writes: "He must derive his sustenance from charity. For the Jews are obligated to support the slaves that live among them." In the framework of this halakha, the Rambam mentions that the slave can potentially maintain himself on charity.