Parsha Mitzvot-Mishpatim: Rav Simcha Bunim: Mitzvah 47 – Concept 547
“If a man shall strike his slave or his maidservant with the rod and he shall die under his hand, he shall surely be avenged. But if he will survive for a day or two, he shall not be avenged, for he is his property.” (Exodus 21:20) The courts must carry out the death penalty of the sword. (Rambam, Hilchot Sanhedrin – The Laws of the Sanhedrin and the Punishments Within Their Jurisdiction)
There are some people who only pray for a day – The Day of Atonement – or two – The Two Days of Rosh Hashana – and yet their prayer fails even on those days because “It is his property,” – he is only thinking about money and success and not other more important matters. (Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Parshischa)
The Rambam rules that a master may never strike a slave with deadly force, and that if he does, even if the slave survives for a year, the master will still be put to death. He may discipline and direct his property, but he must always do so with awareness that a slave is a human being.