Talmud Tips

For the week ending 9 March 2024 / 29 Adar Alef 5784

Bava Metzia 9-15

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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Quitting Without Losing

A day laborer may quit his job even in the middle of the day. The worker may do so, according to Jewish law, without suffering any loss in the wages due him for the hours in which he worked. This is the rule unless such a work stoppage causes damage to his employer due to his indispensability in that particular situation.

This freedom to quit is based on the Divine warning that members of the Jewish nation are “My servants" — and not the “servants of servants.” To compel a worker to continue working against his will is akin to bondage.

Nowadays, there is a fascinating application of this concept in an employee’s contractual commitment. This aversion to bondage finds expression in halacha (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 373:3), prohibiting a Jew to enter into an agreement to work for someone for more than three years. At that point, he changes his status from employee to something approaching bondage. (Of course, as with any practical case involving Jewish law, an expert in halacha should be consulted for a ruling for the exact circumstances of the particular situation in question.)

Bava Metzia 10a

Helping or Harming?

Rav Nachman and Rav Chisda both said, “When one seizes money from a debtor on behalf of a particular creditor, his collection is not valid since it is detrimental to the other creditors.”

Bava Metzia 10a

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