For the week ending 8 August 2009 / 17 Av 5769

Bava Metzia 107 - 113

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Ownership of a tree on border between two fields
  • Blessings of proximity
  • Guarding against evil eye and danger to health
  • Responsibility for repair in partnership situation
  • When a neighbor can demand priority of purchase
  • Restrictions on use of rented field
  • Rights and responsibilities of gardeners
  • Dispute over length of lease in a vague contract
  • Obligation to pay a worker on time
  • Dispute over whether employer paid the worker
  • The seriousness of withholding payment of wages
  • The risks taken by the agricultural worker
  • Why the worker takes the oath rather than the employer
  • The rules regarding taking security for a loan

Risking For a Livelihood

In its command to pay a worker on time the Torah points out that the worker is a poor man who risks his life for the employer. Our gemara describes the nature of this risk as climbing up to the top of a high tree to pick olives or dates and facing the danger of falling to his death.

This situation is certainly not a very high risk one for then it would be forbidden to endanger one's life. But even such a level of risk is permitted only for the sake of earning a livelihood.

Such is the position taken by the great halachic authority Rabbi Yechezkel Landau in his response to a question put to him whether it is permitted for a Jew to hunt wild animals as a sport. While the Torah did not forbid a Jew to take a moderate risk for the purpose of earning a livelihood – such as climbing a high tree or traveling across seas or deserts – it did not permit him to hunt for sport and face the risk of being killed by the animals he is hunting. Should the hunting be done for the purpose of livelihood, such as is done by people trading in animal skins and furs, it is permissible for the same reason that the Torah permitted the worker to risk falling from the tree.

What the Sages Say

"All Jews are princes."

  • Rabbi Shimon - Bava Metzia 113b

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