1. What is Rav's answer to Raba bar bar Hanan's first question of whether he was legally bound to return their clothes? What is his answer to the second question of whether Raba bar bar Hanan was legally bound to pay the workers their wages? How are these two answers different?
2. Why is Raba bar bar Hanan obligated to return the workers' clothes and give them their wages, in spite of the fact that they damaged his property? What does this teach us about how we should relate to poverty? Would Rav have provided the same answer if the workers had not been impoverished?
If your kinsman, being in straits, comes under your authority, and you hold him as though a resident alien, let him live by your side: do not exact from her advance (neshech) or accrued interest (tarbit), but fear your God. Let him live by your side as your kinsman. Do not lend her your money at advance interest (neshech), or give her your food at accrued interest (marbit). I the Lord am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God. [JPS translation. Edited for gender neutrality]
1. What is the difference between a worker and a servant? Does this text understand there to be one?
2. How does this text deconstruct the relationship between an employer and employee?
3. What can we learn from this text about workers’ rights?
(א) (לה) והחזקת בו. אַל תַּנִּיחֵהוּ שֶׁיֵּרֵד וְיִפּוֹל וְיִהְיֶה קָשֶׁה לַהֲקִימוֹ, אֶלָּא חַזְּקֵהוּ מִשְּׁעַת מוּטַת הַיָּד; לְמָה זֶה דוֹמֶה? לְמַשְּׂאוּי שֶׁעַל הַחֲמוֹר, עוֹדֵהוּ עַל הַחֲמוֹר אֶחָד תּוֹפֵס בּוֹ וּמַעֲמִידוֹ, נָפַל לָאָרֶץ, חֲמִשָּׁה אֵין מַעֲמִידִין אוֹתוֹ.
"And you hold [your fellow]" - Do not let your fellow slip down until they fall completely, for then it will be difficult to raise them; rather, strengthen your fellow as they begin to fall. To what is this comparable? To a burden upon an donkey. While it is still on the donkey, one person can hold it and set it in place. If it falls to the earth, even five people cannot set it back. [AJWS translation]
1. How do the two interpretations of the verse differ? How are they similar?
2. In what ways are wages for work equal to life itself?
3. How can we understand this text in the world today?
אֵין בָּעוֹלָם קָשֶׁה מִן הָעֲנִיּוּת, שֶׁהוּא קָשֶׁה מִכָּל יִסּוּרִין שֶׁבָּעוֹלָם, אָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ, כָּל הַיִּסּוּרִין לְצַד אֶחָד וְהָעֲנִיּוּת לְצַד אֶחָד...מִי שֶׁהוּא עָשִׁיר וְיֵשׁ לוֹ קָרוֹב עָנִי.
There is nothing in the world more grievous than poverty; it is the most terrible of all sufferings. Our sages have said: If all troubles were assembled on one side and poverty on the other, [poverty would outweigh them all]. When a man is rich and has a poor relative, he does not acknowledge him; for when he sees his poor relation, he hides himself from him, being ashamed to speak to him, because he is poor. [AJWS translation]
Suggested Dsicussion Questions
1. How does Judaism view Poverty?
2. How should you treat someone who is at risk of becomming poor?
3. What type of obligation do we have to those in need? When are we repsonsible?
4. Is our respnsibility to the Jewish or wider community?
1. To whom do these rules apply?
2. What assumptions are made about the various players in the text?
3. Why is it so crucial that the worker is paid each day?
3. How does the poor person's crying cause a sin upon the employer? If the poor person does not cry out is the employer free of sin?
שָׁמוֹר אֶת יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת לְקַדְּשׁוֹ כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוְּךָ ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ: שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים תַּעֲבֹד וְעָשִׂיתָ כָּל מְלַאכְתֶּךָ: וְיוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי שַׁבָּת לַה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ לֹא תַעֲשֶׂה כָל מְלָאכָה אַתָּה וּבִנְךָ וּבִתֶּךָ וְעַבְדְּךָ וַאֲמָתֶךָ וְשׁוֹרְךָ וַחֲמֹרְךָ וְכָל בְּהֶמְתֶּךָ וְגֵרְךָ אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ לְמַעַן יָנוּחַ עַבְדְּךָ וַאֲמָתְךָ כָּמוֹךָ: וְזָכַרְתָּ כִּי עֶבֶד הָיִיתָ בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם וַיֹּצִאֲךָ ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ מִשָּׁם בְּיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרֹעַ נְטוּיָה עַל כֵּן צִוְּךָ ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת:
Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as Adonai your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath of Adonai your God; you shall not do any work-- you, your son or your daughter, or your male or your female slave, your ox or your ass, or any of your cattle, or your stranger in your settlements, so that your male and female slave may rest as you do. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and Adonai your God freed you from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore Adonai your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. [JPS translation edited for gender-neutrality]
1. According to this text, who is the Sabbath for?
2. What is the connection between observance of the Sabbath and being freed from slavery?
3. How does our experience in Egypt impact the way we treat those who work for us?