For the week ending 25 December 2010 / 17 Tevet 5771

The Torah Work Ethic

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: I am fortunate in holding down a good job even in these difficult times. My work ethic is, in my opinion, a decent one since I put in an honest day’s work and don’t waste the time for which I am being paid. Some of my co-workers make fun of how hard I work at my job, arguing that the wages we are being paid don’t justify such an effort. Are they right?

Answer: How wrong they are can best be appreciated by quoting the words of Rambam at the conclusion of the laws regarding the rights of employees:

"Just as the employer is commanded not to deprive the employee of his wages or withhold them, so too is the employee commanded not to steal from his employer by slacking off a bit here and a bit there and thus dishonestly spending his workday. It is incumbent on him to carefully utilize all of his time, and he is obligated to work with all of his might, as the righteous Patriarch Yaakov declared to his wives: With all my might I worked for your father."

From the words of Rambam we learn that a Torah-true work ethic includes quality of labor as well as quantity. The closing words of Rambam that Yaakov was rewarded by Heaven for his work ethic even in this world by becoming a very prosperous man should be an inspiration for people who indeed give their all for their employers. Inevitably those individuals will be rewarded not only in the World to Come but in this world as well with raises and promotions.

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