Simcha's Torah Stories - Ki Teitze

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Parshas Ki Teitze


Chaim, what did you learn about in history class today?

Labor unions, Avi.

Really? That sounds fascinating. What did the teacher say?

He told us that about one hundred years ago, many factories were referred to as "sweatshops."

Why was that, Chaim?

Working conditions were very poor. The workers had long hours without breaks, the wages were very low, and the work was dangerous. The workers were very dissatisfied.

What did they do about it?

They banded together and formed labor unions. The unions fought for normal working conditions and went on strike if their demands were not met.

Sounds like a good thing.

It was for the most part, Avi. However, the unions realized that they had power, and in certain instances abused that power, taking advantages of the owners. It was a struggle, with each side trying to gain the upper hand.

So, let me see if I got this right Chaim. The factory owners took advantage of the workers. When the workers finally got power, they took advantage of the factory owners.

That’s it, Avi.

That would never happen if everyone followed the Torah’s laws about employer/employee relationships.

Really Avi? I never knew such a thing existed.

Certainly, Chaim. This week’s Torah portion, "Ki Seitze,"deals with bosses and workers.

What does it say?

Imagine that you owned an orchard Chaim, and you hired workers to pick your fruit. You must allow those workers to eat some of the fruit when they are going between the rows of trees. The Sefer HaChinuch, a book written by one of the great Rabbis almost one thousand years ago, explains this: A boss should be kind and generous to his workers. This will allow G-d to bestow all of His blessings upon him. An oppressive and overbearing boss exhibits very bad qualities. Only bad will come to him.

You know, Avi, that reminds me of something that our Talmud teacher once taught us. One who is serving the food at a meal must be allowed to eat before he serves. It would be cruel to make him serve while he is hungry.

Exactly, Chaim! Now we have addressed half of the problem, the boss’s obligation to the worker. What about the worker’s obligation to the boss? The very next mitzvah in the Torah commands the worker who is picking the fruit to eat only what he needs. He should not get carried away and assume that since the owner must allow him to eat, he is also allowed to take some home for his family to eat. That would be stealing. He is not allowed to take advantage of the owner. He can only eat what he needs.

What wisdom the Torah teaches Avi! The boss must be concerned about the worker, and the worker must be considerate of the boss. Each one is concerned for the other. If the "sweatshop" bosses and workers had followed the Torah, they could have avoided all of those problems.

That is why King Solomon, the wisest of all men wrote about the Torah, "its ways are pleasant and all of its paths are peaceful."

Simcha's Quiz

A census taker approaches a house and asks the woman who answers the door, "How many children do you have, and what are their ages?"

The woman says, "I have three children, the product of their ages is 36, the sum of their ages is equal to the address of the house next door."

The census taker walks next door, comes back and says, "I need more information."

The woman replies, "I have to go, my oldest child is sleeping upstairs."

Census taker: "Thank you, I have everything I need."

Question: What are the ages of each of the three children?

Answer to Last Week's Question

If some coffee is "97 percent caffeine-free," how many cups of it would one have to drink to get the amount of caffeine in a cup of regular coffee?

The Answer!

33 1/3 cups. Because there is 3 percent caffeine left in the doctored coffee; in 100 cups there would be enough for 3 cups of regular; 3 goes into 100 exactly 33 1/3 times.

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