In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

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 March 6, 2006 / 6 Adar, 5766

Long hours

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

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How many hours of work is too many?

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: My hours of work at my law firm seem to be endless. How much work is too much, leaving too little time for serving G-d?

A: The need for a fair and transparent work hour policy was evident already in the time of the sages of the Mishnah, two thousand years ago. The Mishnah in tractate Bava Metzia states: "One who hires workers and told them to arrive early or stay late, if it is a place where it is not customary to arrive early or stay late, he cannot compel them." (1)

What then is a "standard" work day in a place where there is no custom to extend it? The Talmud tells us that it begins at daybreak, and continues until some time before nightfall, in order to allow the workers to arrive home before dark. (On Sabbath eve the worker needs time to make minimal Sabbath preparations before sundown, so he must leave earlier.) (2)

It's clear that this is quite a long workday nearly twelve hours on average. Certainly this is not customary today, though in some professions, including yours, seventy hour work weeks are not too unusual. On the other hand, it is a workday that is clearly delineated. While the worker is admonished to be prompt and hard working, his obligations are clearly defined, and the employer is not allowed to exceed them to compel the worker to work longer if custom or agreement doesn't stipulate this.

It is this aspect that is most often a problem today. Average work hours are much less than in the time of the Mishnah, but probably more workers today find that their workday seems to be "endless", as you state, because they feel that they are on call even when the workday is done. Many workplaces don't provide any clear guidelines for fair working hours for professionals and managers; some have this problem for shift workers as well.

The Shulchan Aruch (authoritative code of Jewish law) states: "After you leave the synagogue [following morning prayers], go to the house of study, and establish a time for learning. And this time must be fixed, not to be missed even if there is an opportunity to earn much". In the next chapter, it tells us that a person should then go to work, but must remember that work is of secondary importance to Torah (Bible). (3)

This is the same Shulchan Aruch which later on tells us the standard workday of the Mishnah. (4) We see that making work of secondary importance to Torah doesn't require us to devote many hours to activities which are devoted solely to G-d's service, like prayer and Torah study. But it does require a commitment, having certain times that are sacrosanct and to which workday concerns cannot intrude.

Of course the main refuge we have from our work lives is the Sabbath. But even on weekdays, which are appropriately devoted to work and livelihood, we need certain times free from the burden of employment.

The ideal working situation is one that leaves ample time for other aspects of life: family life, helping others, prayer and study, social life, and constructive recreation. But everyone has to make a living, and it is a fact of life that some kinds of work require long hours on the job. In these cases, the most important thing is to ensure that the obligations of the worker are as clearly defined as possible. A workday with no clear end is exploitative to the worker, and often backfires as workers engage in unproductive competition to put in hours without productivity as well as "undertime" activities meant to camouflage leisure or errands as work.

We wrote in a previous column that keeping a worker later than necessary turns often into gratuitous "busy work", which Jewish law forbids as a kind of unseemly domination of the employee.

The ideal working situation is a job which in itself contributes to mankind, and also leaves adequate time for other dimensions of G-d's service, religious and otherwise. But even those whose livelihood requires a long work day can keep their personal commitments, as long as their work obligations are clearly defined and make their non-working hours truly their own.

SOURCES: (1) Mishnah, Bava Metzia 7:1. (2) Babylonian Talmud Bava Metzia 83b. (3) Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 155 and 156. (4) Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 331:1

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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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