For Lack Of Funds
‘Merchants in Sura Are Not in Violation of…’
(Bava Metzia 111a)
The Torah warns us to pay employees on time: “lo salin pe’ulas sachir itach – the wages of a worker shall not remain with you overnight” (Vayikra 19:13) and “beyomo titein secharo ve lo savo hashemesh alav – on that day shall you pay his wages, the sun shall not set upon him” (Devarim 24:15).
The Gemara (supra 100b) derives from these verses that a worker who labors by day must be paid before the rise of the following morning’s sun and a worker who labors at night must be paid before the following day’s sunset. If the employer fails to do so, he/she violates “lo salin.”
Exceptions To The Rule
Our daf cites Rabba b. Rav Huna who states that merchants in Sura are an exception to the rule because they are usually short of cash and depend on market-day shoppers for money. Therefore, there is an assumed understanding between them and their employees that they will they pay them when they have sufficient cash. This understanding is considered part of the terms of employment.
Rashi (s.v. ad loc. “meida yad’i de’al yoma d’shuka samchi”) writes that these merchants are not in violation of “lo salin” even if they fail to pay their workers later on since the prohibition only applies on the day the labor is concluded. And since there is an agreement to let that day pass without payment, there can be no violation of “lo salin” on the merchants’ part.
Payment On Demand
From the Mishnah (supra 100b) it is evident that “lo salin” can only be violated when the employee comes to collect his wages and the employer spurns his request. Therefore, according to Rashi, if the employee did not demand his wages on the day he finished working, the employer is not in violation of “lo salin.”
The Meiri (ad loc.) disagrees. He argues that “lo salin” applies to the day of payment. If the workers agree to be paid later, that prohibition applies to the agreed-upon payment day. If the employee asks for his money on that day – even if it is many weeks after he completed his work – and is spurned, the employer is in violation of “lo salin.”
A Case Of Two Workers
The Chafetz Chaim (Ahavas Chesed, Dinei Tashlumei Sechar Sachir B’zmano 10:11) discusses what an employer should do if he has two workers – one of whom did work for him on that day and the other one, the previous day – and only has money to pay one of them. The Chafetz Chaim rules, in accord with Rashi’s view, that he should pay the one who did work for him that day since his wages are due that day and if he doesn’t pay him he will violate “lo salin.” That is not the case regarding the first worker, however, because his day of payment has already passed. At this point, although the employer must pay him, he no longer violates “lo salin” each day that passes without paying him.Rabbi Yaakov Klass