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Bava Kama 44-51

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May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel Ben Harav Yoel David Balk a”h.

 

This week we learned Bava Kama 46 and 47. These are some highlights.

Bava Kama 46: Must an employer pursue his employees to pay them?

Ahavas Chessed (9:11) writes a novel law about the following case: An employee finished his job and asked the employer for his pay. The employer did not have the ability to pay him then; he told the man, “Unfortunately, I do not currently have the cash to give you what I owe you.” Later that day the employer received funds and could pay the worker. However, when he got the money the employee was not around to get paid. Must the employer seek out his worker to deliver the wages in the most timely manner? Chafetz Chaim ruled that the employer need not go to the employee to pay him. The employer only has to inform the employee that he has the money available to pay him. An employer who does not pay on time violates the law of Bal Talin, do not go to sleep without paying the day laborer. However, once he has informed his employee that he can collect the funds from him, he has fulfilled his obligations. It is incumbent on an employee to come and collect his pay. It is not the obligation of the employer to pursue the employee to deliver to him his paycheck.

The Chafetz Chaim explained that our Gemara is the source for this ruling. In our Gemara, we learned about the source for the concept of hamotzi meichaveiro alav ha’ra’ayah, he who is seeking to take property out of his friend’s domain is the one who must bring proof. It explained that simple logic, sevara, is the source for this law. “He who has a pain is the one who goes to the doctor.” Therefore, the one who is seeking to take out money is the “one who has pain”; he has to “go to the doctor” and bring proof to his point of view. An unpaid employee is the one who has pain. It is incumbent on him to advocate for himself, press his claims and to get the funds he is owed. An employer may not deny his employee the funds that are rightfully his. However, once he has informed his employee that the check is available, the employee has to “alleviate his own pain,” by going to the employer, and collecting.

Chafetz Chaim also proved this law from the language of the verse. The Torah decries an employer who refuses to pay his worker. It states that the worker might go home and call out in protest to Hashem. Apparently, the employer must allow the worker to collect. It would be terrible if he refused the wages that were owed and the worker protested to Hashem. However, the Torah never stated that the employer must pursue the employee. Once the employer informed the employee that the funds were available, he has fulfilled his obligation; it would be incumbent on the worker to make the effort to come back and collect what he is owed. (Mesivta)

Bava Kama 47: May one spray fly poison on Shabbos?

Many Halachic authorities discuss the challenge of spraying poison in a room to kill mosquitoes or flies when one is bothered by them on Shabbos. On Shabbos one may not take the life of an animal or any other living creature (Shabbos 73a). Hence, the challenge: if someone has flies bothering him in his room on Shabbos, may he spray a fly poison in the air of the room on Shabbos?

Some authorities tried to prove from our Gemara that it would be permitted to spray poison on Shabbos. Our Gemara recorded the lesson of Rav. Rav taught that even if Reuven brought his fruits into the courtyard of Shimon without permission, if Shimon’s ox were to eat the fruit and get hurt from the ingestion, Reuven would be exempt from paying for the damage under the laws of man. He could argue “Hava lei shelo tochal, she should never have eaten.” This seems to mean that one is responsible when he damages the animal of another person. However, one is not responsible if the animal damaged itself. When an animal damages itself then the animal is responsible. Rav seems to believe that if one puts food down, the animal damaged itself by ingesting the food, and, as a result, the owner of the food did not bear any liability. If so, the same should be true in regard to the laws of Shabbos. A Jew may not take the life of an animal on Shabbos. However, if one sprays poison, the animal eats the poison and thus kills itself. There should be no liability if the animal takes its own life on Shabbos.

However, other poskim disagree with this analysis. Shut Shevut Ya’akov argued that a rule about monetary law cannot be applied to laws of prohibition. Monetary laws are between man and man. Shabbos is a law between man and God. Perhaps the claim of “hava lei shelo tochal” is sufficient to exempt one from paying but it may not be sufficient to determine that one is not violating Shabbos. He was willing to utilize a different argument to permit putting poison down before flies.

Killing a fly on Shabbos does not resemble the acts of killing living creatures that were done to construct the Mishkan. When building the Mishkan, creatures were killed to utilize their skins. One who kills a fly has no use for the fly’s remains. Thus, putting a fly to death would be a melacha she’einah tzrichah legufa. Therefore, to prevent pain one should be allowed to perform the melacha she’einah tzrichah legufa. Shevut Ya’akov’s conclusion is that poison would be muktzah and one would not be allowed to move it on Shabbos, even if he was doing so to try and stop a source of discomfort.

It is said in the name of the Chazon Ish that he would permit a person to spray a fly poison into a room on Shabbos if one had first opened the window of the room. He felt that if the window was open the fly would likely take advantage of the opportunity to leave, and when the poison would enter the room it would flee. One may chase flies away on Shabbos.

Shut Tzitz Eliezer (Chelek tet, Siman chaf beit) argues that one may not spray fly poison into a room. He argued that a spray differs from the case of Rav. In Rav’s law, someone put down food, an animal then came over and ate the food. With a spray one is throwing poison directly onto living creatures. It is likely that some of the poison will drop directly on a fly and kill it. One may not kill a living being by putting a killing liquid upon it on Shabbos. Since sprays frequently hit the flies directly, he prohibited spraying the poison into the room even if the window would be open. (Mesivta, Me’orot Daf Hayomi)

By Rabbi Zev Reichman

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