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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Mezi'a

Baba Mezi'a 92a

and walking is regarded as actual work.1

AND AS FOR AN ASS, [IT MAY EAT] WHILST BEING UNLADEN. But when it is unladen, whence can it eat?2  Say until it is unladen.3  We have [thus] learnt [here] what our Rabbis taught: An ass and a camel can eat of the load on their backs, providing that he [the driver] does not personally take thereof and feed them.


GEMARA. Are not the Sages identical with the first Tanna? — They differ as to whether [the labourer] is advised [not to be greedy]. The first Tanna holds that he is not advised; whilst the Rabbis5  maintain that he is. Alternatively, they differ in respect of R. Assi's dictum. For R. Assi said: Even if engaged merely to gather a single cluster, he may eat it.6  R. Assi also said: Even if he [as yet] vintaged only one cluster, [having been engaged for the day,] he may eat it. Now, both [dicta] are necessary. For if the first [only] were stated,I would think that that is so, since there is nothing [else] to put into the employer's vessels;7  but when there is something to put into the employer's vessels, I would think that he must first put [some there] and then eat. Whilst if the second statement [only] were made, I would think that the reason is that it can be eventually fulfilled;8  but where it cannot be eventually fulfilled,9  I might think that he may not eat. Hence both are necessary.

[Reverting to the Mishnah:] Alternatively, I can say, they differ in respect of Rab's dictum. For Rab said: I found a secret scroll of the School of R. Hiyya10  wherein it was written, Issi b. Judah said: When thou comest into thy neighbour's vineyard11  Scripture refers to the coming in of any man.12  Whereon Rab commented: Issi makes life impossible for any one.13

R. Ashi said: I repeated the [above] teaching before R. Kahana. [Thereupon] he observed:14  Perhaps [Issi b. Judah referred] to those who labour for their food, working and eating.15  And Rab?16  — Even then, a man prefers to engage labourers to vintage his vineyard, rather than that any one should enter.

The scholars propounded: Does the labourer eat his own [sc. when partaking of the fruit upon which he is engaged], or does he eat of Heaven's [gift]?17  What practical difference does this make? If he said, 'Give it [the fruit that I might have eaten] to my wife and children.' Now, should you say that he eats his own, we must give it to them. But if he eats of Heaven's [gift], then upon him Scripture conferred this privilege, but not upon his wife and children. What is our ruling? — Come and hear: A LABOURER MAY EAT CUCUMBERS, EVEN TO THE VALUE OF A DENAR, OR DATES, EVEN TO THE VALUE OF A DENAR. Now, should you say that he eats of his own, when he is engaged for a danka,18  shall he eat for a denar?19  — What then: he eats of Heaven's [gift]? Yet after all, being engaged for a danka, shall he eat for a denar!20  Hence, what must you reply? That the All-Merciful privileged him;21  so here too,22  the All-Merciful conferred that privilege upon him.23

Come and hear: R. ELEAZAR HISMA SAID: A LABOURER MUST NOT EAT MORE THAN HIS WAGE. BUT THE SAGES PERMIT IT. Now, surely they differ in respect of this: one [sc. R. Eleazar Hisma] maintains that he eats his own,24  whilst the other holds that he eats the [gift] of Heaven! — No. All agree that he eats his own, but here they differ with respect to the interpretation of [then thou mayest eat grapes thy fill] according to thy soul. One Master25  maintains, 'according to thy soul' means that for which thou riskest thy life;26  whilst the other Master [R. Eleazar] interprets, 'As thyself': just as if thou muzzlest thyself thou art exempt [from punishment], so the labourer, if thou muzzlest him,27  thou art exempt.28

Come and hear: If a nazir29  said, 'Give [the grapes I might have eaten] to my wife and children,' he is not heeded. Now should you say, he eats his own, why is he disregarded? — There it is because, 'Go, go, thou nazirite,' say we, 'take the most devious route, but approach not the vineyard.'30

Come and hear: If a labourer said, 'Give [the grapes] to my wife and children,' we do not heed him. Now should you say, he eats his own, why not? — What is meant by 'a labourer'? A nazir. But the case of a nazir has been taught, and also that of a labourer! — Were they then taught together?31

Come and hear: Whence do we know that if a labourer said, 'Give [the fruit] to my wife and children,' he is not heeded? From the verse, But thou shalt not put any in thy vessel.32  And should you reply, This too refers to a nazir; if so, is it on account of 'but thou shalt not put any in thy vessel': surely it is because, 'Go, go, thou nazirite', we say, etc.! — That is indeed so, but since he is referred to as a labourer, the verse relating to a labourer is cited.33

Come and hear: If one engages a labourer to dry figs,34

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. And yet were it not for the consideration of the employer's time, he would not be permitted to eat.
  2. Its whole burden is removed at once, and then it is led away.
  3. I.e., as long as it is laden, it may eat of its burden.
  4. I.e., he will be unable to obtain employment, if he eats too greedily.
  5. The Sages.
  6. The first Tanna accepts this, and means thus: A labourer may eat cucumbers even if he was engaged only to work on these which he actually eats, whilst the Sages permit him to eat more than his wage (for which reason the Rabbis make mention of his wage, whilst the first Tanna omits all reference thereto), but not all that for which he was engaged.
  7. And Scripture having permitted the labourer to eat, he cannot be bidden to refrain.
  8. Viz., the putting into the employer's utensils.
  9. I.e., if he was engaged only for that cluster, and he eats it.
  10. [H]: Oral law being unwritten, when one particularly desired to remember a halachah, he recorded it but kept it secret (Rashi). [Kaplan, J. op. cit., p. 277, argues with great plausibility that the concealment of the scroll had nothing to do with the interdict of writing halachah records, but was due to its contents which, as will be seen, were not well adapted to unrestricted publicity. The same scroll contained another teaching by the same Tanna, which likewise was liable to abuse. Shab. 6b; 96b.]
  11. Deut. XXIII, 25.
  12. Not only a labourer.
  13. Social life is impossible if any person may enter and eat of one's crops. — Now, the first Tanna agrees with Rab, and hence says, only A LABOURER MAY EAT etc.; but the Sages maintain that any person may enter; hence they say that the labourer may eat more than his wage, since even if no wage is due at all — i.e., if he is not an employee he may still eat.
  14. [Following reading of Alfasi and Asheri. Cur. edd. omit 'he observed'. Render accordingly: 'R. Ashi said, I put the (following) question (lit., 'discussion') to R. Kahana. Perhaps etc.' Cf. B.B. 114a; v. Strashun, S.]
  15. I.e., any man, even when not engaged by the owner, may enter a vineyard, assist in the vintaging, and eat. But it is unreasonable to suppose that Issi b. Judah permitted all and sundry to enter any man's vineyard, eat his fill, and make no return.
  16. If that be the correct interpretation, why does Rab object?
  17. I.e., is it actually part of his salary, and in the nature of a bonus, or a special Divine favour bestowed upon the labourer?
  18. V. Glos.
  19. Surely it is unreasonable that the additional bonus shall far exceed the wage actually stipulated.
  20. For it is likewise unreasonable that the privilege conferred by Scripture shall exceed his actual due.
  21. Notwithstanding that it exceeds his wage.
  22. I.e., even if he is assumed to eat his own.
  23. To eat even more than his wages, and still it is an addition thereto.
  24. And therefore the bonus cannot exceed the principal.
  25. I.e., the Sages.
  26. Lit., 'soul'. I.e., in return for ascending the tree to gather the fruit, thereby endangering his life, the labourer may eat, That being so, there is no limit to the quantity.
  27. V. p. 509, n. 5.
  28. There thus being no warrant for the labourer to eat more than his wage.
  29. V. Glos. The reference is to a labourer, a nazirite, engaged on vintaging. A nazirite is forbidden to eat grapes.
  30. This was proverbial: a man must not venture into temptation. Hence while it may be that the labourer eats of his own, here he is penalised for having accepted employment in a vineyard at all.
  31. Both refer to the same, but were not taught together. V. supra 34a.
  32. I.e., only he may eat, but none on his behalf.
  33. But merely as a support, the law itself being Rabbinical, as stated in n. 7.
  34. Figs were dried in the field and then pressed into cakes, the labourer being engaged for this purpose.

Baba Mezi'a 92b

he [the labourer] may eat and is exempt from tithes.1  [But if he stipulates, 'I accept the work] on condition that I and my son eat, or, 'that my son eat for my wage:'2  he may eat, and is exempt; and his son may eat, but is liable.3  Now should you say, he eats his own, why is his son liable?4  — Said Rabina: Because it looks like purchase.5

Come and hear: If one engages labourers to work upon his fourth year plantings,6  they may not eat;7  but if he [the employer] did not inform them [that they were of the fourth year], he must redeem [the fruit]8  and let them eat it.9  Now should you Say, he eats of Heaven's [gift], why must he redeem [the fruit] and let them eat it? Surely the All-Merciful conferred no privilege upon them in respect of that which is forbidden! — There it is because it looks like an erroneous bargain. [If so,] consider the second clause: If his figs cakes were broken,10  or if his barrels of wine burst open,11  they may not eat.12  But if he did not inform them,13  he must tithe [the fruit and wine] and let them partake [thereof].14  Now should you say, He eats of Heaven's [gift], why must he tithe and let them eat: surely the All-Merciful conferred no privilege upon him in respect of what is forbidden! And should you reply, Here too it is because [otherwise] it looks like an erroneous bargain, [I can rejoin,] now as for the breaking of his fig-cakes, it is well, since it does look like an erroneous bargain; but if his barrels burst, where is the erroneous bargain? Surely he [the labourer] knew that they were tebel in respect of tithes! — R. Shesheth replied: It means that his barrels burst open into the tank.15  But has it not been taught: Wine [is subject to tithes] when it descends into the tank?16  — This agrees with R. Akiba, who ruled [it is not liable] until the scum is removed; so that they [the labourers] can say to him, 'We did not know [thereof].' But can he not retort, 'The possibility of its having been skimmed should have occurred to you'? — It refers to a locality where the same person who draws [the wine from the tank into barrels first] skims it. And now that R. zebid learned out of the Baraitha of R. Oshaia:17  Wine [is subject to tithes] when it is run into the tank and skimmed. R. Akiba said: When it is skimmed in barrels:18  you may even say that the barrels did not burst open into the tank; yet they can say, 'We did not know that it had been skimmed.' But can he not say to them, 'The possibility of its having been skimmed should have occurred to you'? — It refers to a place where the same person who closes it19  also skims it.

Come and hear: A man may stipulate [to receive payment instead of eating] for himself, his son or daughter that are of age, his manservant and maidservant that are of age, and his wife; because they have understanding.20  But he may not stipulate [thus] for his son or daughter that are minors, his manservant or maidservant that are minors, nor in respect of his beasts; because they have no understanding.21  Now it is being assumed that he22  provides them with food, should you then say that he [the labourer] eats of Heaven's [gift], it is well: consequently, one may not stipulate [to deprive them of their rights]. But if you maintain that he eats of his own, let him stipulate [thus] even for minors!23  — In this case it means that he does not provide them with food.24  If so, [for] adults too [he cannot stipulate thus]! — Adults know [their rights] and forego them. But R. Hoshaia taught: A man may stipulate [as above] for himself and his wife, but not in respect of his beast;25  for his son and daughter, if adults, but not if minors; for his Canaanite manservant and maidservant, whether adults or minors. Now presumably, both26  mean that he provides them with food, and they differ in the following: one Master [sc. that of the Baraitha] maintains that he [the labourer] eats of his own;27  whereas the other holds that he eats of Heaven's! — No; all hold that he eats his own, yet there is no difficulty: here [in the Mishnah] he does not provide them with food,28  whereas in the Baraitha he does. How do you explain it: that he provides them with food? If so, let him stipulate for [his son and daughter if] minors too? — The All-Merciful did not privilege him to cause distress to his son and daughter.29  Now, how do you explain the Mishnah? That he does not provide them with food!

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Having yet to be dried, their work is not finished, v. supra 87a.
  2. Rashi: for the wage stipulated, so that he would draw no pay. Tosaf: instead of me.
  3. For it is as though he bought them (Ma'as. II, 7). V. supra 88a-b; cf. p. 507, n. 3.
  4. For then it is part of his wage, still the Bible exempted him, though eating fruit as part of one's wage is akin to purchase. Then surely the same should hold good of his son!
  5. More so than when he himself eats, regard being had to the stipulation he made.
  6. The fruit of a tree in the fourth year of its planting was to be eaten in Jerusalem, like the second tithe; v. Lev. XIX, 24.
  7. Whilst working, since it must be taken to Jerusalem.
  8. These fruits, just as those of the second tithe, could be redeemed, the redemption money to be expended in Jerusalem, whilst the fruit could then be eaten anywhere as ordinary hullin (v. Glos.).
  9. V. infra 93a.
  10. I.e., after having been pressed into cakes, the cakes were accidentally broken up, and labourers were engaged to re-press them.
  11. And he hired labourers to re-fill them.
  12. Since, as stated supra 89a, when fruit is already liable to tithes, the labourers may not eat.
  13. That they had been pressed once, and so were liable to tithes.
  14. V. infra 93a.
  15. In which wine is stored, so that the labourer might have thought that it had not been barrelled yet.
  16. And the labourers could have then known that they were liable to tithing.
  17. [Var. lec.: R. Zebid son of R. Hoshaia. V. A. Z, (Sonc. ed.) p. 27, n. 4.]
  18. Rashi: When it has been skimmed in the barrels; after being filled in the barrels it ferments again and more scum settles on top, which must be removed.
  19. By pasting in the bung.
  20. They know that they are entitled to eat, but forego their rights.
  21. V. infra 93a. The understanding of a minor is not legally recognised.
  22. The father or owner who hires them out.
  23. Since all their rights belong to him, and just as he receives their wages, so he can receive the food due to them as part wages.
  24. So that he has no right even to their wages. This is on the assumption that when the master provides no food, he is not entitled to their work. This is a subject of dispute; v. infra 93a top.
  25. Because of the prohibition of muzzling.
  26. The Mishnah first quoted, which states that this stipulation may not be made for one's servants, if minors; and the Baraitha, which permits it.
  27. Therefore his master may stipulate this, v, n. 1.
  28. Hence he cannot stipulate.
  29. Though entitled to their work, and providing them with food, he causes them to suffer by not eating of that upon which they are actually engaged.