May 29, 2024
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May 29, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel Ben Harav Yoel David Balk a”h.

 This week we learned Bava Metzia 75 and 76. Here are some highlights.

Bava Metzia 75: Moving from a building where neighbors died

Our Gemara teaches that there are three who call out and are ignored. Rashi explained that these individuals come to the earthly court with complaints—and the bet din ignores them. They caused their own misfortune. One who has money and lends it to a friend without witnesses being present, one who acquires a master for himself, and a person who allows his wife to rule over him. The Gemara has three suggestions for the meaning of one who acquires a master for himself. It might mean one who falsely claimed that his possessions belonged to a gentile to avoid giving charity. The gentile might hear and claim the items. The stingy Jew acquired the gentile over himself as a master and will only have himself to blame for his losses. Alternatively, it might mean a person who writes away all his possessions to his children in his lifetime. If the children subsequently do not respect him, or fritter away the wealth, he has only himself to blame. The last possibility the Gemara suggested was that it referred to a man who has misfortune in his town and still does not move to another locale.

Chatam Sofer explained why the man who did not move when his fortune was difficult is called a person who acquired a master for himself. Each place has an angel who brings the divine influences to that city or state. For some, the divine influence results in blessings. For others, that divine influence results in misfortune and difficulties. If a person sees that he is a having a hard time in a place, it means that his soul is not a match for the influence the angel brings to that place. If he stays there anyway he is choosing this angel to be a master over him. He is wrong. He should move from the place. If he does not move and misfortunes continue he has only himself to blame.

Shu”t Betzeil Hachochma (Chelek Gimel Siman 45) was asked by a person who wished to move. In the building in which he lived three people had died suddenly. He feared that the building had a bad mazal. He worried that he might be next. He wished to know if he could break his lease and move out to a building across the street. Betzeil Hachochma pointed that our Gemara did not say, “If he has misfortune in this house.” It said, “If he has misfortune in this place.” A place has a guardian angel bringing down a divine flow. Each building does not have its own angel. There would therefore be nothing to gain in moving from one building to another within the same town. Furthermore, the Gemara said if a person has misfortune he should move, it did not say that if others had misfortune the person should move. However, he quoted Sefer Chasidim who writes that if a person built a new home and three people died in it, the others should move out of the home for they also might die. Shu”t Betzeil Hachochma therefore posited that if it was a new building and three people died in it, he should move out; however, in an old building the fate of others is irrelevant to you. A place’s divine influence might be bad for others but good for you (Mesivta).

Bava Metzia 76: May a yeshiva rebbe strike or quit?

Our daf deals with employees and employers. It teaches that an employee can quit a job he has accepted if he has not yet started to work. If the employer can find alternate workers, the employer has no financial claims against him. The employer will only have the right to be upset. However, if the employee was hired for a matter in which there is financial loss, then he may not quit with no financial liability. If a man hired a worker to remove flax from the waters in which they are soaking, the worker should not quit. If he quits the employer will likely suffer a loss. If, despite this, the worker quits, the employer can deceive him into completing the job. Alternatively, the employer can hire alternate workers at a high price and send the bill to the worker who quit on him.

Based on these principles, poskim discussed whether yeshiva teachers would be allowed to strike to demand better wages. Perhaps yeshiva teachers are like workers hired to save flax. If they would not teach it would cause a lasting loss. They should never strike or quit unless suitable replacements were immediately available.

Teshuvot V’hanghagot (Chelek Beis Siman 461) was asked by teachers in a cheder about the possibility of a work action. The teachers felt that the school did not pay them fairly. Their living expenses were high but their wages were very low. They had asked the leaders of the school for raises but they had been told that no money was available. They asked the rav if they were allowed to strike. The teachers felt that the drastic action of not showing up and instructing would convey to the administration how dire the reality was and the school would find a way to pay them more.

Teshuvot V’hanghagot answered that our Gemara teaches that a worker may not quit when he was hired for a job that if not performed the employer would suffer a loss. Rama (Choshen Mishpat 333:5) ruled that a teacher of Torah is engaged in an activity that if not performed causes a lasting loss. Time lost from Torah learning cannot be made up. The teachers had not initially negotiated a better wage. They had accepted the low wage. They now needed more funds. However, they were not allowed to strike and cause lasting damage. They could sue the administration and force the school to go to a bet din for a din Torah. They were not to strike. He added that if they were to strike, they would be included in the curse, “Arur oseh melechet Hashem remiya, Cursed is the one who corrupts the work of the Divine.”

Teshuvot Rav Aharon Kotler (Chelek Beis Siman 71) ruled that the secular studies teachers in a yeshiva were also not allowed to strike. He pointed out that if teachers strike the children will have nothing to do and they would likely loiter on the streets and get into trouble. This would be a tremendous loss. It is spiritually very destructive for a child to do nothing. Such a loss could not be made up. The teachers therefore were not entitled to strike.

Shu”t Igrot Moshe (Choshen Mishpat Chelek Bet Siman 59) also dealt with this question. He pointed out that causing Jewish children not to study Torah is a great sin. It is not proper for a person to try and improve his financial condition through an act of sin. Rav Moshe did concede that perhaps if a teacher is not being paid enough to live, the stress he feels causes his teaching to be inferior. The Torah conveyed by a harried, distracted man will not enter the hearts of his students. Therefore, if he knows that a single day strike will cause the school to give him a livable wage and enable him to live and teach well he would be allowed to strike for this short term as an expression of “Eit la’asot laHashem heifeiru Toratecha, To act for God’s sake, Hashem’s Torah may be violated.” However, experts must consider the question long and hard. They must weigh every aspect of the scenario before the drastic step of a short-term strike by teachers is undertaken (Mesivta).

By Rabbi Zev Reichman

 Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.

 

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