י״ז בטבת ה׳תשע״ז (January 15, 2017)

Bava Metzia 111a-b: Paying On Time

The Mishna on today’s daf continues teaching laws about the biblical requirement to pay a worker on time. According to the Mishna, this rule applies not only to cases of an employee, but also to situations where a person has rented an animal or an object; the renter must offer payment on time – assuming that the person who was to get paid requested payment. If he did not ask to get paid, the employer (or the renter) has not violated the law.

The passage upon which this law is based (Devarim 24:14) delineates who is included in the obligation. The Torah mentions specifically me-ahekha (from your brothers) o mi-gerkha (or from a convert) asher be-artzekha (who is in your land). This is understood to require prompt payment not only to a Jewish worker, but also to a ger tzedek (a righteous convert to Judaism) and a ger toshav (someone who lives in Israel without accepting the commandments).

There are two types of people who are referred to by the Torah as a ger – a convert – and it is not always easy to ascertain which the Torah is talking about in a given situation. The first type is a ger tzedek, who is someone who has accepted the commandments and has undergone a process of ritual immersion in a mikvah and, for a man, circumcision. Such a ger is considered a Jew like any other, with some technical exceptions. The second type is a ger toshav, who is a non-Jew who is permitted to live in Israel since he is not in the category of an idol worshipper.

The precise definition of a ger toshav is subject to disagreement among the tanna’im. Some say that it is sufficient for the individual to reject idol worship, while others say that he must accept all of the commandments with the exception of eating non-kosher. The accepted approach is that someone is considered to be a ger toshav if he accepts upon himself sheva mitzvot bnei Noah – the seven Noachide laws. Once he has accepted these laws, he is considered part of the community in that Jews must concern themselves with his well-being, including, as we have seen, prompt payment of his salary.

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