ט״ו בטבת ה׳תשע״ז (January 13, 2017)

Bava Metzia 109a-b: You’re Fired!

How much notice must be given to a worker who is going to be fired?

Our Gemara tells the story of a man named Runya who worked for Ravina planting for him. Ravina found that his work was poor and that he was losing money, so he fired him. When Runya complained to Rava that he had been fired without warning, Rava responded that there was no need to warn him before letting him go.

The Gemara explains that this is not true in all cases, rather that according to Rava there are certain professions whose workers are considered mutrin ve-omdin – that they are always “on notice” since the damage that they do cannot be undone. The list of professions includes:

Makrei dardekei – elementary school teachers

Shatala – people who plant others’ fields

Tabaha – slaughterers

Umana – people who “let blood”

Safar mata – the city scribe.

Rashi explains that makrei dardekei are a problem because of the mistakes that the children cannot unlearn. . The Ri”f suggests that this is talking about a teacher who is violent towards the students or who cannot control them. Tosafot suggest that the irreplaceable loss is the loss of time that the children could have been learning.

With regard to the tabaha, the Ra’avad asks why his mistake should be considered a loss, since he would be required to pay for mistakes that he made. The Ra’avad suggests that there are cases where the damage is permanent, e.g. when the customer needed meat for a guest or for his own meal and has no other options.

Although we translated safar mata as a scribe, some suggest that it should be read sapar mata – the city barber, and that the reference is to someone who gives haircuts that leave the recipients publicly embarrassed.

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