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In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 12, 2005 / 11 Kislev, 5766

My paycheck is late!

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

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Paying workers on time | Q. I did a job for someone months ago, but they keep on pushing off writing me a check. What can I do?

A. The most common reader question to the Jewish Ethicist is how to deal with people who just don't pay debts, particularly debts to outside workers (consultants, professionals, etc.) Even so, I never dealt with the question since there is no real ethical dilemma — everyone knows they are obliged to pay debts. Yet the question comes so many times that I decided I should explain the importance of this obligation.

Putting off paying debts when the ability exists is certainly a serious ethical lacuna. The book of Proverbs (3:28) tells us, "Don't say to your fellow, 'Go away, and come back later; I'll give you tomorrow' if you have with you [the means]." But this verse also applies to any kind of debt. (In fact, the commentators explain that anytime you have the ability to do someone a favor, it's demeaning to put them off needlessly.)

But debts to workers are particularly serious, and the Torah warns us about them in a number of places. "Don't oppress your fellow and don't steal; don't delay the wages of a worker until the morning" (Leviticus 19:13). "Don't withhold the wages of the poor and needy of your brethren or the sojourner in your land in your gates. On his day give his wage, and let not the sun set on it; for he is poor, and he sets his soul on it. Lest he call on you to G-d and it will be to you a sin" (Deuteronomy 24:14-15).

We see that the Torah (Bible) even gives the reason for the special status of wages: "For he is poor, and he sets his soul on it." What is the meaning of "setting his soul" on his wages?

The Talmud's first explanation explains that this refers to the fact that many jobs taken by poor people are dangerous, and the workman is literally risking his life. (This reminds me of the scene in Cinderella Man where the promoter warns Braddock that fighting Max Baer is truly dangerous. Braddock points out that the average working stiff also risks his life, on the building scaffold and so on.)

The second explanation is: "Anyone who withholds the wages of a worker, it's as if he takes his soul". (1) Here is one way of understanding this: When a worker provides services in return for agreed-upon recompense there is a free exchange among equals. But when no payment is forthcoming, it as if he has been enslaved. From this point of view, withholding wages is more serious than holding off on other debts just as enslaving someone is a more serious offense than robbing them.

Virtually everyone has been in a position where others owe him money, just as virtually everyone has been in a position where he hasn't managed to pay back all his debts on time. But the Torah views debts for workers' wages as especially serious, and we should give these debts special priority.

SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 112a.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.


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All's fair in love?
Comfort and Competition
Do I need the caller's permission to put a call on the speakerphone?
Overtime for lost time
Is it unethical to play suppliers against each other to get the lowest bid possible?
Do family members have precedence in charity allotments?
What the world of business can teach us about our annual process of repentance and renewal
Are religious leaders subject to criticism?
Vindictive Vendor: How can I punish an abusive competitor?
Blogging Ethics: Is the blogger responsible for defamatory posts?

© 2005, The Jewish Ethicist is produced by the JCT Center for Business Ethics