Talmidav Shel Aharon
32-5767: Mitzvah 66
July 16, 2007
Mitzvah 66 – It is a positive commandment to give the wages of a hired hand on the same day.
Hafetz Hayim: As Scripture says: “On his day you shall give him his hire” (Deut. 24:15) To a “resident stranger” ( who has committed himself to observe the seven commandments of Noah) this law also applies, that “on his day you shall give him his hire.” It applies everywhere and in every time for both men and women.
I believe that this law is the source of the maxim: An honest days pay for an honest days work. That is the fundamental ethic behind this Mitzvah. If someone does work for you, they are entitled to be paid. The Mitzvah also insists that the payment should be given on the same day the work is done.
The importance of this law seems obvious. A day laborer depends on his pay to support himself and his family. To withhold that pay, or to make him or her wait to be paid, would cause needless suffering. It would also leave the laborer with little recourse to get his money later. Such day laborers do not have the resources to sue the employer for their wages. By the time the matter gets to court, the entire family could be starving. These workers are some of the most vulnerable in society. They are at the bottom of the labor hierarchy; The Sages passed many laws to protect them. One was last weeks Mitzvah, that they be given opportunities to snack on the job. This one adds the protection that they will be paid promptly.
I apply this mitzvah to all small business owners who go out and try to offer a service to the community. The gardeners, the pool technicians, the handyman and the roof repairman are all basically in business for themselves and depend on being paid promptly. If they accept a credit card, the bill is paid on the spot. If they are used to sending a monthly bill, I direct the bill pay at my bank to pay them as soon as the bill arrives and not wait 30 days to send payment. Large corporations, the power company, the mortgage company, the city water bureau, and the credit card companies I pay just prior to the due date, but not the “little guys.” The Torah teaches us that they deserve a break and should be paid, if possible, the same day. The Talmud records a dispute between such laborers and a wealthy landowner. He withheld payment and seized the workers garments because they were moving barrels of wine and broke one, causing him a loss. The workers took the man to court and the court insisted that their garments be returned, since they did not intend to break the barrel, it was just an accident and they could not be held liable for accidental damages. The court also demanded that they be paid for the day. The landowner was incensed that they had caused him damage and now he hand to pay them too! Still the court insisted that they had done their best that day and deserved to be paid.