Mishnah, Bava Metzia 7:1

Mishnah, Bava Metzia 7:1

,א השוכר את הפועלים, ואמר להם להשכים ולהעריב--מקום שנהגו שלא להשכים ושלא להעריב, אינו יכול לכופן; מקום שנהגו לזון, יזון; לספק במתיקה, יספק: הכול כמנהג המדינה. מעשה ברבי יוחנן בן מתיה שאמר לבנו, צא ושכור לנו פועלים, ופסק עימהם מזונות. וכשבא אצל אביו, אמר לו, אפילו את עושה להם כסעודת שלמה בשעתה, לא יצאת ידי חובתך, שהם בני אברהם יצחק ויעקוב; אלא עד שלא יתחילו במלאכה, צא

ואמור להם, על מנת שאין לכם אלא פת וקטנית בלבד. רבן שמעון בן גמליאל אומר, לא היה צריך לומר, אלא הכול כמנהג המדינה.

One who hires workers and instructs them to begin work early and to stay late—in a place in which it is not the custom to begin work early and to stay late, the employer may not force them to do so. In a place in which it is the custom to feed the workers, he must do so. In a place in which it is the custom to distribute sweets, he must do so. Everything goes according to the custom of the land [minhag hamakom].

Source: Translation as quoted/translated in Jill Jacobs, There Shall Be No Needy Teacher's Guide. (Woodstock, Vermont: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2010), p. 29. Hebrew text from Mechon Mamre.

Discussion Questions for Mishnah, Bava Metzia 7:1

  1. In your own words, what is this text saying? What is the primary point of this text?
  2. Based on what you have learned, what was “the custom of the land” in New York City around 1909–1911? What trends existed for how garment factories were run?
  3. What does this text teach us about the responsibilities of workers and employers?
  4. If you were a worker during this time, how might you interpret this text? How could this text support the mission of joining a union to fight for better wages and working conditions?
  5. If you were a factory owner during this time, how might you interpret this text? How could this text support the decision to keep a union out of your factory?
  6. Now prepare a short presentation for the other groups in which you will share your text and then discuss:
    1. Does this text seem to favor the perspective of the worker or the factory owner, or is it neutral? What makes you say that?
    2. After you discuss, ask if any of the other groups have a different interpretation of your text that they would like to share.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Mishnah, Bava Metzia 7:1." (Viewed on April 12, 2024) <http://jwa.org/node/22243>.