Bava Metzia 112bבבא מציעא קי״ב ב
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112bקי״ב ב

שכיר בזמנו נשבע ונוטל וכו': שכיר אמאי תקינו ליה רבנן למשתבע ושקיל

The mishna teaches: If a hired laborer requests payment at the proper time and the employer claims he already paid him, the laborer takes an oath that he did not receive his wages and then receives the wages from the employer. The Gemara asks: Why did the Sages institute for a hired laborer, who is the plaintiff, to take an oath and receive his wages, in opposition to the principle that in the case of a monetary dispute between two parties, the defendant takes an oath that he is not liable and thereby exempts himself from payment?

אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל הלכות גדולות שנו כאן הני הלכתא נינהו הני תקנות נינהו אלא אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל תקנות גדולות שנו כאן גדולות מכלל דאיכא קטנות

Rav Yehuda says that Shmuel says: They taught great halakhot here. The Gemara is puzzled by this choice of words: Are these halakhot? They are ordinances designed for the proper running of business transactions, not halakhot that apply to everyone at all times. The Gemara emends the above statement: Rather, Rav Yehuda says that Shmuel says: They taught great ordinances here. The Gemara is still unsatisfied with the terminology: Does the word great indicate by inference that there are minor ordinances? Which ordinances are considered of minor importance?

אלא אמר רב נחמן אמר שמואל תקנות קבועות שנו כאן שבועה דבעל הבית היא ועקרוה רבנן לשבועה דבעל הבית ושדיוה אשכיר משום כדי חייו דשכיר ומשום כדי חייו דשכיר מפסדנא ליה לבעל הבית

Rather, Rav Naḥman says that Shmuel says: They taught fixed ordinances here that are necessary for practical life. The reason is that taking the oath is actually the duty of the employer, but the Sages transferred the oath of the employer and imposed it upon the hired laborer due to the livelihood of the hired laborer. The laborer requires his wages to survive, and therefore if the employer is allowed to exempt himself by taking an oath, the laborer will be left with nothing. The Gemara asks: And simply due to the livelihood of the hired laborer should we cause the employer to lose out? If the employer is entitled to take an oath to exempt himself, why should he suffer due to the laborer’s needs?

בעל הבית גופיה ניחא ליה דמשתבע שכיר ושקיל כי היכי דליתגרו ליה פועלים שכיר גופיה ניחא ליה דמשתבע בעל הבית ויפקע כי היכי דליגרוהו בעל הבית על כרחיה אגר שכיר נמי בעל כרחיה איתגר

The Gemara answers: It is preferable for the employer himself that the hired laborer should take an oath and receive his wages so that laborers will hire themselves out to him with the knowledge that their wages are secure. The Gemara asks: Why not argue the reverse, that it is preferable for the hired laborer himself that the employer should take an oath and be exempt so that he should be hired? If the terms of labor are too imposing, people will not hire laborers. The Gemara responds: The employer must perforce find a laborer to hire. The Gemara retorts: A hired laborer, too, must perforce allow himself to be hired out.

אלא בעל הבית טרוד בפועלים הוא אי הכי ניתב ליה בלא שבועה כדי להפיס דעתו של בעל הבית

The Gemara now retracts the previous explanation: Rather, the employer is preoccupied with many laborers, and it is more likely that he forgot and mistakenly believed that he already paid this laborer’s wages. The Gemara asks: If so, i.e., if it is reasonable that the employer forgot, we should give the laborer his wages without him taking an oath, as there are grounds to presume that the employer erred. The Gemara responds: The laborer takes an oath in order to alleviate the concerns of the employer, as, if he is not required to take an oath, the employer will feel that he has been cheated.

וניתב ליה בעדים טריחא להו מילתא וניתב ליה מעיקרא שניהם רוצים בהקפה

The Gemara asks: But why not have the employer instead give him his wages in the presence of witnesses each time, which would remove any uncertainty? The Gemara answers: The matter would be an inconvenience to them both if they needed to find witnesses before each payment. The Gemara asks: But why not have the employer give him the wages at the outset, before he starts working, when he is less preoccupied? The Gemara answers: Both of them want the payment to be in the form of credit, i.e., that the wages not be paid in advance. The employer prefers this arrangement in case he has no ready cash at his disposal, while the laborer also prefers to be paid at the end of the day so that he does not lose his money in the meantime.

אי הכי אפי' קצץ נמי אלמה תניא אומן אומר שתים קצצת לי והלה אומר לא קצצתי לך אלא אחת המוציא מחבירו עליו הראיה קציצה ודאי מידכר דכירי ליה אינשי

The Gemara asks: If so, then even if the dispute between them concerns a fixed amount of payment as well, the laborer should take an oath. Why did we learn in a baraita: If the craftsman says: You fixed two coins for me as my payment, and the other, i.e., the employer, says: I fixed only one coin for you, then the burden of proof rests upon the claimant. Why is it not assumed that the employer was preoccupied and forgot, as in the previous case? The Gemara answers: The fixing of wages is certainly an event that people remember, and there is no concern that the employer forgot how much he stipulated.

אי הכי אפי' עבר זמנו נמי אלמה תנן עבר זמנו אינו נשבע ונוטל חזקה אין בעל הבית עובר משום בל תלין

The Gemara asks: If so, i.e., if the concern exists that the employer might have forgotten, then even if his time had passed for claiming his wages, the laborer should be entitled to take an oath and claim his wages. Why did we learn in the mishna: If the time had passed he does not take an oath and receive the wages? The Gemara answers: The reason in that case is that a presumption exists that an employer does not generally violate the prohibition of delaying payment of wages.

והא אמרת בעל הבית טרוד בפועליו הוא הני מילי מקמיה דלימטייה זמן חיוביה

The Gemara asks: But didn’t you say that the employer is preoccupied with his laborers? The Gemara answers: This statement applies only before the time of his obligation to pay arrives, as it is possible that his preoccupation with other matters caused him to forget whether he had already paid him,