What is Work Worth?
לֹֽא־תַעֲשֹׁ֥ק אֶת־רֵֽעֲךָ֖ וְלֹ֣א תִגְזֹ֑ל לֹֽא־תָלִ֞ין פְּעֻלַּ֥ת שָׂכִ֛יר אִתְּךָ֖ עַד־בֹּֽקֶר׃

You shall not defraud your fellow. You shall not commit robbery. The wages of a laborer shall not remain with you until morning.

(לה) וְכִֽי־יָמ֣וּךְ אָחִ֔יךָ וּמָ֥טָה יָד֖וֹ עִמָּ֑ךְ וְהֶֽחֱזַ֣קְתָּ בּ֔וֹ גֵּ֧ר וְתוֹשָׁ֛ב וָחַ֖י עִמָּֽךְ׃

(35) If your kinsman, being in straits, comes under your authority, and you hold him as though a resident alien, thou shalt relieve him and let him live by your side.

והחזקת בו. אַל תַּנִּיחֵהוּ שֶׁיֵּרֵד וְיִפֹּל וְיִהְיֶה קָשֶׁה לַהֲקִימוֹ, אֶלָּא חַזְּקֵהוּ מִשְּׁעַת מוֹטַת הַיָּד; לְמָה זֶה דוֹמֶה? לְמַשּׂאוֹי שֶׁעַל הַחֲמוֹר, עוֹדֵהוּ עַל הַחֲמוֹר אֶחָד תּוֹפֵס בּוֹ וּמַעֲמִידוֹ, נָפַל לָאָרֶץ, חֲמִשָּׁה אֵין מַעֲמִידִין אוֹתוֹ:

והחזקת בו THOU SHALT RELIEVE HIM — Do not leave him by himself so that he comes down in the world until he finally falls altogether when it will be difficult to give him a lift, but uphold him from the very moment of the failure of his means. To what may this be compared? To an excessive load on the back of an ass. So long as it is still on the ass’s back, one person is enough to take hold of the load and to keep the ass up, as soon as it has fallen to the ground not even five persons are able to set it on its legs .

כִּֽי־תַשֶּׁ֥ה בְרֵֽעֲךָ מַשַּׁ֣את מְא֑וּמָה לֹא־תָבֹ֥א אֶל־בֵּית֖וֹ לַעֲבֹ֥ט עֲבֹטֽוֹ׃ בַּח֖וּץ תַּעֲמֹ֑ד וְהָאִ֗ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֤ר אַתָּה֙ נֹשֶׁ֣ה ב֔וֹ יוֹצִ֥יא אֵלֶ֛יךָ אֶֽת־הַעֲב֖וֹט הַחֽוּצָה׃ וְאִם־אִ֥ישׁ עָנִ֖י ה֑וּא לֹ֥א תִשְׁכַּ֖ב בַּעֲבֹטֽוֹ׃ הָשֵׁב֩ תָּשִׁ֨יב ל֤וֹ אֶֽת־הַעֲבוֹט֙ כְּבֹ֣א הַשֶּׁ֔מֶשׁ וְשָׁכַ֥ב בְּשַׂלְמָת֖וֹ וּבֵֽרֲכֶ֑ךָּ וּלְךָ֙ תִּהְיֶ֣ה צְדָקָ֔ה לִפְנֵ֖י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ׃ (ס) לֹא־תַעֲשֹׁ֥ק שָׂכִ֖יר עָנִ֣י וְאֶבְי֑וֹן מֵאַחֶ֕יךָ א֧וֹ מִגֵּרְךָ֛ אֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּאַרְצְךָ֖ בִּשְׁעָרֶֽיךָ׃ בְּיוֹמוֹ֩ תִתֵּ֨ן שְׂכָר֜וֹ וְֽלֹא־תָב֧וֹא עָלָ֣יו הַשֶּׁ֗מֶשׁ כִּ֤י עָנִי֙ ה֔וּא וְאֵלָ֕יו ה֥וּא נֹשֵׂ֖א אֶת־נַפְשׁ֑וֹ וְלֹֽא־יִקְרָ֤א עָלֶ֙יךָ֙ אֶל־יְהוָ֔ה וְהָיָ֥ה בְךָ֖ חֵֽטְא׃ (ס)

If he is a needy man, you shall not go to sleep in owing him money; you must return the pledge to him at sundown, that he may sleep in his cloth and bless you; and it will be to your merit before the LORD your God.

You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger in one of the communities of your land. You must pay him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets, for he is needy and he sets his soul upon it; else he will cry to the LORD against you and you will incur guilt.

ואידך ההוא מיבעי ליה לכדתניא (דברים כד, טו) ואליו הוא נושא את נפשו מפני מה עלה זה בכבש ונתלה באילן ומסר את עצמו למיתה לא על שכרו דבר אחר ואליו הוא נושא את נפשו כל הכובש שכר שכיר כאילו נוטל נפשו ממנו רב הונא ורב חסדא חד אמר נפשו של גזלן וחד אמר נפשו של נגזל

The expression “for he sets his soul upon it” explains why one must be so precise when paying a laborer his wages: For what reason did this laborer ascend on a tall ramp or suspend himself from a tree and risk death to himself? Was it not for his wages? How, then, can his employer delay his payment?

Alternatively, the words “for he sets his soul upon it” teach that concerning one who withholds the wages of a hired laborer, it is as though he takes his soul from him. Rav Huna and Rav Ḥisda disagreed over the meaning of this statement. One says it is referring to the soul of the robber, meaning that one who steals from a hired laborer by delaying payment of his wages causes Heaven to remove his own soul, and one says that he takes the soul of the robbery victim, meaning that one who steals from a hired worker causes the death of the worker.

(ה) הַרְבֵּה דְּבָרִים אָסְרוּ חֲכָמִים מִפְּנֵי שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָּהֶם סַכָּנַת נְפָשׁוֹת. וְכָל הָעוֹבֵר עֲלֵיהֶן וְאוֹמֵר הֲרֵינִי מְסַכֵּן בְּעַצְמִי וּמַה לַּאֲחֵרִים עָלַי בְּכָךְ אוֹ אֵינִי מַקְפִּיד בְּכָךְ מַכִּין אוֹתוֹ מַכַּת מַרְדּוּת:

(5) The sages have prohibited many things because they are dangerous to life. If anyone disregards them and says : "What claim have others on me if I risk my own life?" or: "I do not mind this," he should be lashed for disobedience.

ה֣וֹי בֹּנֶ֤ה בֵיתוֹ֙ בְּֽלֹא־צֶ֔דֶק וַעֲלִיּוֹתָ֖יו בְּלֹ֣א מִשְׁפָּ֑ט בְּרֵעֵ֙הוּ֙ יַעֲבֹ֣ד חִנָּ֔ם וּפֹעֲל֖וֹ לֹ֥א יִתֶּן־לֽוֹ׃ הָאֹמֵ֗ר אֶבְנֶה־לִּי֙ בֵּ֣ית מִדּ֔וֹת וַעֲלִיּ֖וֹת מְרֻוָּחִ֑ים וְקָ֤רַֽע לוֹ֙ חַלּוֹנָ֔י וְסָפ֣וּן בָּאָ֔רֶז וּמָשׁ֖וֹחַ בַּשָּׁשַֽׁר׃ הֲתִֽמְלֹ֔ךְ כִּ֥י אַתָּ֖ה מְתַחֲרֶ֣ה בָאָ֑רֶז אָבִ֜יךָ הֲל֧וֹא אָכַ֣ל וְשָׁתָ֗ה וְעָשָׂ֤ה מִשְׁפָּט֙ וּצְדָקָ֔ה אָ֖ז ט֥וֹב לֽוֹ׃ דָּ֛ן דִּין־עָנִ֥י וְאֶבְי֖וֹן אָ֣ז ט֑וֹב הֲלוֹא־הִ֛יא הַדַּ֥עַת אֹתִ֖י נְאֻם־יְהוָֽה׃

Ha! he who builds his house with unfairness And his upper chambers with injustice, Who makes his fellow man work without pay And does not give him his wages, Who thinks: I will build me a vast palace With spacious upper chambers, Provided with windows, Paneled in cedar, Painted with vermilion! Do you think you are more a king Because you compete in cedar? Your father ate and drank And dispensed justice and equity— Then all went well with him. He upheld the rights of the poor and needy— Then all was well. That is truly heeding Me —declares the LORD.

בעא מיניה רב מרבי ירד להציל ולא הציל מהו אמר לו וזו שאילה אין לו אלא שכרו איתיביה השוכר את הפועל להביא כרוב ודורמסקנין לחולה והלך ומצאו שמת או שהבריא נותן לו שכרו משלם

If one descended into the river in order to rescue another’s donkey instead of his own, but he did not manage to rescue it, what is the halakha? Does the stipulation still apply so that the owner of the donkey he attempted to rescue must compensate him for the loss of his own donkey?

[Rav said]: In a case of one who hires a laborer to bring cabbage and plums to an ill person, and he went and found that the patient had already died or recovered, the employer nevertheless gives the worker his entire wage. Evidently, one is paid for his efforts even if the desired result is not accomplished. Accordingly, the rescuer’s stipulation should apply, and one should be obligated to pay another for attempting to salvage his donkey even if he did not actually succeed in doing so.

במה דברים אמורים שלא הלכו אבל הלכו חמרים ולא מצאו תבואה פועלין ומצאו שדה כשהיא לחה נותן להן שכרן משלם אבל אינו דומה הבא טעון לבא ריקן עושה מלאכה ליושב ובטל

The baraita continues: In what case is this statement said? When they did not go to the workplace, i.e., the employer reneged immediately. But if donkey drivers went and could not find any produce to carry, or laborers went off to work and found that the field was too moist for tilling, the employer must give them their full wages to which they are entitled. But he does not give them the entire stipulated amount, as a donkey driver who comes back loaded cannot be compared to one who comes back empty, nor can a laborer who performs work be compared to one who sits idle. The employer deducts a sum from the laborers’ wages, paying them the amount they are willing to receive given that they do not actually have to perform the work.

השוכר פועלים ינהג עמהם כמנהג המדינה ובו ג"ס:
השוכר את הפועלים ואמר להם להשכים ולהעריב מקום שנהגו שלא להשכים ושלא להעריב אינו יכול לכופן אפי' הוסיף על שכרן כיון שלא התנה כן בשעה ששכרן:

One who hires workers and said to them "work from dawn till dusk", cannot force them to do so if that is not the custom of the area, even if he adds to their salary. This is because he did not make this stipulation at the moment he hired them.

גמ׳ פשיטא לא צריכא דטפא להו אאגרייהו מהו דתימא אמר להו הא דטפאי לכו אאגרייכו אדעתא דמקדמיתו ומחשכיתו בהדאי קא משמע לן דאמרו ליה האי דטפת לן אדעתא דעבדינן לך עבידתא שפירתא

GEMARA: With regard to the statement that an employer may not compel his laborers to rise exceptionally early and continue working until exceptionally late, the Gemara asks: Isn’t this obvious? By what right can he force them to do so? The Gemara explains: No, the mishna’s ruling is necessary only in a case where the employer increased their wages beyond the standard in that place. Lest you say that the employer could say to the laborers: The fact that I increased your wages was with the understanding that you would rise early and continue working late for me, the mishna therefore teaches us that the laborers can say in response to the employer: The fact that you increased our wages was with the understanding that we would perform quality work for you, not that we would work longer hours.

הַשּׂוֹכֵר אֶת הַפּוֹעֲלִים וְאָמַר לָהֶם לְהַשְׁכִּים וּלְהַעֲרִיב, מְקוֹם שֶׁנָּהֲגוּ שֶׁלֹּא לְהַשְׁכִּים וְשֶׁלֹּא לְהַעֲרִיב, אֵינוֹ רַשַּׁאי לְכוֹפָן. מְקוֹם שֶׁנָּהֲגוּ לָזוּן, יָזוּן. לְסַפֵּק בִּמְתִיקָה, יְסַפֵּק. הַכֹּל כְּמִנְהַג הַמְּדִינָה. מַעֲשֶׂה בְּרַבִּי יוֹחָנָן בֶּן מַתְיָא שֶׁאָמַר לִבְנוֹ, צֵא שְׂכֹר לָנוּ פוֹעֲלִים. הָלַךְ וּפָסַק לָהֶם מְזוֹנוֹת. וּכְשֶׁבָּא אֵצֶל אָבִיו, אָמַר לוֹ, בְּנִי, אֲפִלּוּ אִם אַתָּה עוֹשֶׂה לָהֶם כִּסְעֻדַּת שְׁלֹמֹה בִשְׁעָתוֹ, לֹא יָצָאתָ יְדֵי חוֹבָתְךָ עִמָּהֶן, שֶׁהֵן בְּנֵי אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיַעֲקֹב. אֶלָּא עַד שֶׁלֹּא יַתְחִילוּ בַמְּלָאכָה צֵא וֶאֱמֹר לָהֶם, עַל מְנָת שֶׁאֵין לָכֶם עָלַי אֶלָּא פַת וְקִטְנִית בִּלְבַד. רַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן גַּמְלִיאֵל אוֹמֵר, לֹא הָיָה צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר, הַכֹּל כְּמִנְהַג הַמְּדִינָה:

In a locale where employers are accustomed to feeding their laborers, the employer must feed them. If they are in a locale where an employer is accustomed to providing their laborers with sweet foods, he must provide such food.

There was an incident involving Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Matya, who said to his son: Go out and hire laborers for us. His son went, hired them, and pledged to provide sustenance for them as a term of their employment, without specifying the details. And when he came back to his father and reported what he had done, Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Matya said to him: My son, even if you were to prepare a feast for them like that of King Solomon in his time, you would not have fulfilled your obligation to them, as they are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Rather, before they begin engaging in their labor, go out and say to them: The stipulation that food will be provided is on the condition that you have the right to claim from me only a meal of bread and legumes, which is the typical meal given to laborers.

רבה בר בר חנן תברו ליה הנהו שקולאי חביתא דחמרא שקל לגלימייהו אתו אמרו לרב אמר ליה הב להו גלימייהו אמר ליה דינא הכי אמר ליה אין (משלי ב, כ) למען תלך בדרך טובים יהיב להו גלימייהו אמרו ליה עניי אנן וטרחינן כולה יומא וכפינן ולית לן מידי אמר ליה זיל הב אגרייהו א"ל דינא הכי אמר ליה אין (משלי ב, כ) וארחות צדיקים תשמור
The Gemara relates an incident involving Rabba bar bar Ḥanan: Certain porters broke his barrel of wine after he had hired them to transport the barrels. He took their cloaks as payment for the lost wine. They came and told Rav. Rav said to Rabba bar bar Ḥanan: Give them their cloaks. Rabba bar bar Ḥanan said to him: Is this the halakha? Rav said to him: Yes, as it is written: “That you may walk in the way of good men” (Proverbs 2:20). Rabba bar bar Ḥanan gave them their cloaks. The porters said to Rav: We are poor people and we toiled all day and we are hungry and we have nothing. Rav said to Rabba bar bar Ḥanan: Go and give them their wages. Rabba bar bar Ḥanan said to him: Is this the halakha? Rav said to him: Yes, as it is written: “And keep the paths of the righteous” (Proverbs 2:20).
והאמר רב פועל יכול לחזור בו אפי' בחצי היום אמר ליה כל כמה דלא הדר ביה כיד בעל הבית הוא כי הדר ביה טעמא אחרינא הוא דכתיב (ויקרא כה, נה) כי לי בני ישראל עבדים עבדי הם ולא עבדים לעבדים

Rava responded: But doesn’t Rav say that a laborer may reconsider and quit his job, even at midday? Evidently, the relationship between the employer and the laborer is structured to the benefit of the laborer. Rav Naḥman said to him: As long as he does not retract his commitment, his hand is like the employer’s hand. When he does retract his commitment, he is able to do so. But this is not because matters are structured to the benefit of the laborer, but for a different reason, as it is written: “For to Me the children of Israel are slaves; they are My slaves whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 25:55), which indicates: They are My slaves, and not slaves of slaves, i.e., of other Jews. Consequently, a Jew can never be enslaved to another Jew with a contract from which he cannot release himself whenever he wishes. Nevertheless, as long as the laborer does not quit the job, he is considered his employer’s agent.

משרשי המצוה. למען נקנה בנפשנו מדות מעלות יקרות וחמודות, ועם הנפש היקרה והמעלה נזכה לטוב, והאל הטוב, חפץ להיטיב לעמו, והודנו והדרנו הוא שנרחם על מי שעבד אותנו ונתן לו משלנו בתורת חסד מלבד מה שהתנינו עמו לתת לו בשכרו, ודבר משכל הוא, אין צרך להאריך בו.

And it is for our glory and our splendor that we should have mercy upon the ones who served us, and that we give from what is ours as a rite of kindness - besides that which we have stipulated with him to give him his wage. And it is a rational thing - there is no need to be lengthy about it.