Eved Ivri and The Torah’s Message for Employees
Adapted from a shiur by Rav Yosef Greenwald
והגישו אדוניו אל האלוהים והגישו אל הדלת או אל המזוזה ורצע אדוניו את אזנו במרצע ועבדו לעולם
Halacha recognizes two types of workers:
- – Employee paid by the hour, e.g., an office manager hired for a 9-5 job
- – Employee paid by task, such as a contractor hired to build a deck
The Gemara (77b-78a) rules that a may sometimes quit a job after beginning it due to the principle of stated concerning — we are servants to Hashem, and not to other humans.
- He may quit even in the middle of the day.
- He must be paid for the work that he did already.
- If his leaving will cause a loss (e.g. a time sensitive job for which there is no one else to replace him), he may not quit.
- A may generally not retract without completing the job.
If the worker was paid up front before he began working, may he still quit?
- Only if he has money left now to return for the work left undone.
- Maharik/Rema (Y.D. 333:3) – Yes, and he can repay the rest of the money later.
May one sign a long-term contract with an employer for more than three years?
- Rema (C.M. 333) – No
- A rabbi may sign with his community for longer as long as he may still quit in the middle.
The message for us:
- Our true job in life is to serve Hashem, our employment is simply the means to maintain a livelihood, and should not control us.
- The ears are pierced when wanting to stay because he did not heed this message heard at Har Sinai of being servants to Hashem
- The Brisker Rav: Our job is our livelihood, but if we are asked who we are, we respond like Yonah (Yonah chapter 1): I fear Hashem!