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Eved Ivri and The Torah’s Message for Employees


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

(שמות כא:ו)

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!
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