Child Labor
Babylonian Talmud, Baba Metzia 112a
1א
כל הכובש שכר שכיר כאילו נוטל נפשו ממנו
Whoever withholds an employee’s wages, it is as though he has taken the person’s life from her. [Translation by Hillel. Edited for gender neutrality]
2ב
Suggested Discussion Questions

1. On what grounds can we equate withholding wages with taking a life?
2. Is taking a person's life equivalent to murder? What is the meaning of this phrase here?

Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 82b
3ג
ר"מ אומר: לעולם ילמד אדם לבנו אומנות נקיה וקלה, ויבקש רחמים למי שהעושר והנכסים שלו, שאין עניות מן האומנות ואין עשירות מן האומנות אלא למי שהעושר שלו, שנאמר: (חגי ב) לי הכסף ולי הזהב נאם ה' צבאות.
R. Meir said: One should always teach one's child a clean and easy craft, and earnestly pray to God to Whom [all] wealth and property belong, for neither poverty nor wealth comes from one's calling, but from God to whom wealth and property belong, as it is said: "The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, said the God" (Haggai 2:8). [Soncino translation. Edited for gender neutrality]
4ד
Suggested Discussion Questions

1. If God is the decider of wealth, for what reason does R. Meir say that everyone must know a trade?
2. If all wealth is God's, how are we meant to relate to our stuff?

3. What social justice themes emerge from this text?
5ה
Leviticus 25:42
“The children of Israel are [God's] servants and not servants to servants." [Translation by Rabbi Jill Jacobs]
ויקרא כ"ה: כי לי בני ישראל עבדים, ולא עבדים לעבדים.
Suggested Discussion Questions

1. What do you think the difference is between being a servant to God and a servant to a servant?
2. What does it mean to be a servant to God?
3. How does this text affect your thinking about workers' rights?

Ben Zion Chai Uziel, Mishpatei Uzziel IV, Choshen Mishpat 43
6ו
אם אמנם מצד ההלכה אין בעל הבית חייב בנזקי הפועל…נוטה אני לומר שבעל הבית מוזהר מן התורה לעשות כל מה שאפשר להבטיח פועליו מסכנת מות או מום ככתוב: "ועשית מעקה לגגך ולא תשים דמים בביתך" שכולל כל מכשול העלול להזיק כמו כלב רע וסולם רעוע וכו'. מכאן אנו למדין חובת בעל הבית או הקבלן לדאוג בדיקנות זהירה בתנאי העבודה שיהיו בטוחים מכל מכשול הגורם לאיזה אסון שהוא…ובאם לאו הוא נלכד בעוון "לא תשים דמים בביתך וצריך כפרה. אבל אין זה דבר היוצא בדיינין.
Though it is the case that according to the law the owner is not liable for the damages of the worker…I am inclined to say that the owner is warned by the Torah to do all that is possible to insure his workers from the danger of death or disability, as it says: “You shall make a parapet, a low protective wall, for your roof and you shall not bring blood-guilt upon your house” (Deuteronomy 22:8), which includes any hazard which is likely to cause injury, like a mad dog or a rickety ladder [Baba Kamma 15b, Choshen Mishpat 427:5]. From this we learn the obligation of the owner or contractor to address the working conditions with strict care, so that they are secure from all hazards which might precipitate an accident…for if he is guilty of the sin “you shall not bring blood-guilt upon your house” and needs atonement. But this is not adjudicable before judges. [Ziegler translation]
7ז
Suggested Discussion Questions

1. How does the author of this text try to mandate a law that is not measurable?
2. What power dynamics are at play?

3. In what ways have the concerns here been addressed in contemporary labor law? What still needs to be addressed - particularly in a global context?
8ח
Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 40b
Translation Original
Rabbi Tarfon and some elders were reclining in an upper chamber in the house of Nitza in Lod when this question came up: Which is greater, study or action? Rabbi Tarfon spoke up and said: Action is greater. Rabbi Akiva spoke up and said: Study is greater. The others then spoke up and said: Study is greater because it leads to action. [Soncino translation]
וכבר היה רבי טרפון וזקנים מסובין בעלית בית נתזה בלוד, נשאלה שאילה זו בפניהם: תלמוד גדול או מעשה גדול? נענה רבי טרפון ואמר: מעשה גדול, נענה ר"ע ואמר: תלמוד גדול, נענו כולם ואמרו: תלמוד גדול, שהתלמוד מביא לידי מעשה.
Suggested Discussion Questions

1. Which of these actions is ultimately the most important? Why?
2. What "action" is being discussed here?
3. How does this text relate to Jewish social justice?
4. How does this text relate to education and sustainable livelihood?

9ט
10י