by R. Moshe Kurtz
Lomdus on the Parsha: Kedoshim
Based on the Acclaimed Sefer Chavatzeles HaSharon
Q: What does Judaism have to say about transitioning (between day and night)?
Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbor, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning. (Leviticus 19:13)
There are several, seemingly unrelated commandments which share a halachic concept called Linah, or resting. When preparing the water for the baking of matzah for Pesach, one is supposed to let it rest overnight so that it cools off and does not accelerate the fermenting process. (This is called Mayim Shelanu; see Shulchan Aruch O.C. 455:1). We more commonly encounter, however, a transgression of bal salin, in which letting something rest for too long is undesirable. For instance, there is a prohibition of Halanas HaMeis against delaying the burial ceremony (see Deut. 21:23 and Mishnah, Sanhedrin 6:5) And in our parshah we are instructed against withholding a worker’s wage – “lo salin.” The Talmud (Bava Metzia 110b) explicates the Scriptural basis of this halachah in the following baraisa:
From where is it derived concerning a day laborer that he collects his wages all night? The verse states: “The wages of a hired laborer shall not remain with you all night until the morning” (Lev. 19:13). And from where is it derived concerning a night laborer that he collects his wages all day? As it is stated: “On the same day you shall give him his wages” (Deut. 24:15).
The Mishnah (ad loc) adds that “if he left [upon the completion of his work] in the day, he collects his wages all day; if he left at night, he collects his wages all night and all day.”
Tosafos (s.v. Yatzah) is troubled by the apparent inconsistency in how the halachic principle of Linah is applied to the laws of paying wages and the ritual requirements of the Temple. In the case of the Temple, limbs which were removed from the altar during the course of the night time would be disqualified (pasul) due to Linah come daybreak (see Zevachim 86a). Whereas a worker who completes his work in the middle of the night would not be entitled to his payment in the morning but rather could legitimately be made to wait until sunset the next day. Why is it that regarding wages one only transgresses the sin of Linah after a complete night, whereas in the Temple, even a partial night is sufficient to render something disqualified?
One might suggest that the dissonance between these applications of Linah depends on how we conceptualize the way it is activated. If one assumes that Linah is a measurable threshold (shiur) that is cumulatively reached upon all the hours of the night combining together, then it is understandable why one who worked only part of the night is not yet entitled to his wages come morning. However, if Linah is simply activated upon the transition from night shifting to day, then we can understand why animal limbs that were off of the altar for even part of the night would be disqualified the moment morning comes. (See Chiddushei HaGranat on Nedarim, no. 48 regarding the prohibition of delaying one’s Temple offering, and R. Shimon Shkop on Bava Kamma 33 regarding a violent ox regarding a similar conceptual framework about whether certain halachic statuses are cumulative in nature.) However, even if we accept this framework, we are still left with Tosafos’ question regarding why we do not adopt a single definition for Linah across the board.
(1) The Gevuras Ari (Yoma 29b, s.v. Kol Shekein) reaffirms Tosafos’ premise that Linah by definition means something has rested an entire night from start to finish. He suggests that perhaps the higher standard found in the Temple context was a stringent measure instituted on a Rabbinical level. While that is certainly a possibility, perhaps there is something more fundamental happening below the surface.
(2) R. Mordechai Carlebach suggests that we need to distinguish between the (A) sin of Linah versus (B) the disqualification of Linah.
Regarding the obligation for an employer to pay wages in a timely manner, we are only reckoning with a potential sin of Linah, which by simple definition, implies an entire night.
Whereas, in the case of Temple offerings both facets exist: (A) The sin of Linah is found in the verse: “Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning.” (Ex. 23:18); (B) the disqualification of Linah is derived from: “And you shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remains of it until the morning you shall burn with fire” (Ex. 12:10).
R. Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik (Kisvei HaGriz, Temurah 4b) suggests that in such a case, in which there is an additional element of disqualification, the sin of Linah is modified to conform to the parameters of preventing disqualification from occuring. While in general, Linah connotes a full night, in this case, since allowing it to come to the point of disqualification of Linah simply occurs from transiting between night to dawn, the sin of Linah would also have been transgressed by mere transition.
Regardless of the precise parameters of Linah, there is an overarching moral imperative that the Torah is prescribing in how one with power should not take advantage of one who is at his financial mercy. The Or HaChaim (Lev. 19:13) comments:
The reason the Torah describes the injured party as reiacha, a colleague or friend, is to warn us not to presume on the other party’s friendship towards us to shortchange them in what is due to them. One must not play loose with a friend’s money because he is one’s friend and presumably will not voice his objection for the sake of preserving the friendship.
Similarly, the Sefer HaChinuch (no. 42) writes in regards to treating one’s Jewish servant:
It is from the roots of this commandment that God wanted His people Israel that He chose, to be a holy nation, full of – and crowned with – good and lofty traits; as blessing rests upon them from this. And kindness and mercy are from the most praiseworthy traits in the world. And therefore, he warned us to have mercy on the one under our hand and to do kindness towards him.
Endnote: Relatedly, the Mishnas Ya’avetz, C.M. 45), addresses whether the worker has an actual entitlement to taking his wage in a timely manner or if there is only a prohibition for the employer to retain it. See also Ketzos HaChoshen (339:1).
Note: This series is not intended to dispense practical halachic conclusions. The Torah presented here is but a small extraction from the breadth of the sefer Chavatzeles HaSharon and is not affiliated with the author in any official capacity. Translations are adapted from Sefaria, Chabad.org, Mechon Mamre, and my own. Contact: [email protected]