כ״ז בשבט ה׳תשע״ג (February 7, 2013)

Shabbat 127a-b: Giving the Benefit of the Doubt

The Gemara on today’s daf  offers several stories of people who gave others the benefit of the doubt.

taught in a baraita: One who judges another favorably is himself judged favorably. And there was an incident involving a certain person who descended from the Upper Galilee and was hired to work for a certain homeowner in the South for three years. On the eve of the Day of Atonement, he said to the homeowner: Give me my wages, and I will go and feed my wife and children. The homeowner said to him: I have no money. He said to him: In that case, give me my wages in the form of produce. He said to him: I have none. The worker said to him: Give me my wages in the form of land. The homeowner said to him: I have none. The worker said to him: Give me my wages in the form of animals. He said to him: I have none. The worker said to him: Give me cushions and blankets. He said to him: I have none. The worker slung his tools over his shoulder behind him and went to his home in anguish.

After the festival of Sukkot, the homeowner took the worker’s wages in his hand, along with a burden that required three donkeys, one laden with food, one laden with drink, and one laden with types of sweets, and went to the worker’s home. After they ate and drank, the homeowner gave him his wages.

The homeowner said to him: When you said to me: Give me my wages, and I said: I have no money, of what did you suspect me? Why did you not suspect me of trying to avoid paying you? The worker answered, I said: Perhaps the opportunity to purchase merchandise [perakmatya] inexpensively presented itself, and you purchased it with the money that you owed me, and therefore you had no money available.The homeowner asked: And when you said to me: Give me animals, and I said: I have no animals, of what did you suspect me? The worker answered: I said: Perhaps the animals are hired to others. The homeowner asked: When you said to me: Give me land, and I said: I have no land, of what did you suspect me? The worker answered: I said: Perhaps the land is leased to others, and you cannot take the land from the lessees. The homeowner asked: And when you said to me: Give me produce, and I said: I have no produce, of what did you suspect me? The worker answered: I said: Perhaps they are not tithed, and that was why you could not give them to me. The homeowner asked: And when I said: I have no cushions or blankets, of what did you suspect me? The worker answered: I said: Perhaps he consecrated all his property to Heaven and therefore has nothing available at present.

The homeowner said to him: I swear by the Temple service that it was so. I had no money available at the time because I vowed and consecrated all my property on account of Hyrcanus, my son, who did not engage in Torah study. The homeowner sought to avoid leaving an inheritance for his son. And when I came to my fellow residents in the South, the Sages of that generation, they dissolved all my vows. At that point, the homeowner had immediately gone to pay his worker. Now the homeowner said: And you, just as you judged favorably, so may God judge you favorably.

In the She’iltot, Rav Aḥai Gaon cited this incident and identified the homeowner as Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus and the worker who he hired as Rabbi Akiva.

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