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Sechirut - Chapter 13

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Sechirut - Chapter 13

"I will thankfully acknowledge You with an upright heart, as I study Your righteous judgments" (Psalms 119:7).

The Thirteenth Book


The Book of Judgments

It consists of five halachot. They are, in order:

Hilchot Sechirut - The Laws of Rentals and Employer-Employee Relations; Hilchot She'ilah UFikadon - The Laws Governing Borrowing and Governing Entrusted Objects;

Hilchot Malveh V'Loveh - The Laws Pertaining to Lenders and Borrowers; Hilchot To'en VNit'an - The Laws Governing Disputes between Plaintiffs and Defendants; and Hilchot Nachalot - The Laws Pertaining to Inheritances


An animal should be given the opportunity to eat whenever it works with produce, whether the produce is still attached to the ground or has been harvested. Similarly, it may partake of produce from the burden it is carrying until it has been unloaded, provided that the person caring for the animal does not take the produce in his hand and feed it.


הַבְּהֵמָה אוֹכֶלֶת כָּל זְמַן שֶׁהִיא עוֹשָׂה בְּגִדּוּלֵי קַרְקַע בֵּין בִּמְחֻבָּר בֵּין בְּתָלוּשׁ. וְאוֹכֶלֶת מִמַּשּׂאוֹי שֶׁעַל גַּבָּהּ עַד שֶׁתִּהְיֶה פּוֹרֶקֶת וּבִלְבַד שֶׁלֹּא יִטּל בְּיָדוֹ וְיַאֲכִילֶנָּה:


Whoever prevents an animal from eating while it is working should be punished by lashes, as Deuteronomy 25:4 states: "Do not muzzle an ox while threshing."

The prohibition applies to an ox and to all other species of animals and beasts, whether a kosher animal or a non-kosher animal. Similarly, it applies with regard to threshing and all other types of work with produce. The Torah speaks about an ox threshing only to mention the most common instance.

An employer is not liable if he muzzles a worker. He is, however, liable for muzzling an animal. This applies whether he muzzles the animal while he is working with it or muzzles it beforehand and works with it while muzzled. He is liable even if he "muzzles it" with his mouth.

When a person rents an animal, muzzles it and then threshes with it, he receives lashes and must pay the owners the value of four kabbin of grain for a cow, and three kabbin for a donkey. Although generally a person does not receive both lashes and a financial penalty for the same transgression, an exception is made in this instance, because the renter was obligated to provide the animal with its sustenance from the time he pulled it after him, and he is not liable for lashes until he threshes with the animal while muzzled.


כָּל הַמּוֹנֵעַ הַבְּהֵמָה מִלֶּאֱכל בִּשְׁעַת מְלַאכְתָּהּ לוֹקֶה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כה ד) "לֹא תַחְסֹם שׁוֹר בְּדִישׁוֹ". אֶחָד שׁוֹר וְאֶחָד כָּל מִינֵי בְּהֵמָה וְחַיָּה בֵּין טְמֵאִין בֵּין טְהוֹרִין וְאֶחָד הַדִּישָׁה וְאֶחָד כָּל שְׁאָר הַמְּלָאכוֹת שֶׁל גִּדּוּלֵי קַרְקַע וְלֹא נֶאֱמַר שׁוֹר בְּדִישׁוֹ אֶלָּא בָּהוֹוֶה. וְהַחוֹסֵם אֶת הַפּוֹעֵל פָּטוּר. אֶחָד הַחוֹסֵם אוֹתָהּ בִּשְׁעַת מְלָאכָה וְאֶחָד הַחוֹסֵם אוֹתָהּ מִקֹּדֶם וְעָשָׂה בָּהּ מְלָאכָה וְהִיא חֲסוּמָה אֲפִלּוּ חֲסָמָהּ בְּקוֹל לוֹקֶה. שָׂכַר בְּהֵמָה וַחֲסָמָהּ וְדָשׁ בָּהּ לוֹקֶה וּמְשַׁלֵּם לַבְּעָלִים אַרְבַּעַת קַבִּין לְפָרָה וּשְׁלֹשֶׁת קַבִּין לַחֲמוֹר שֶׁמִּשְּׁעַת מְשִׁיכָה נִתְחַיֵּב בִּמְזוֹנוֹתֶיהָ. וְאֵינוֹ חַיָּב מַלְקוֹת עַד שֶׁיָּדוּשׁ בָּהּ חֲסוּמָה:


When a Jew threshes with a cow belonging to a gentile, he is subject to violating the prohibition against muzzling. When, by contrast, a gentile threshes with an ox belonging to Jew, he is not subject to violating this prohibition.

If a Jew tells a gentile: "Muzzle my ox and thresh with it," a thorn becomes lodged in the ox's mouth and he threshes with it so it does not eat, he places a lion outside the threshing floor, he places the animal's son outside the threshing floor, he does not provide the animal with drink when it is thirsty, or spreads a hide over the grain so that it will not eat - all of these and similar acts are forbidden, but the person does not receive lashes.

When the produce with which the animal is working is bad for its digestion and will damage the animal's health or when the animal is sick and eating will cause it to become diarrheic, it is permitted to prevent the animal from eating. The rationale is that the Torah enacted this prohibition so that the animal would benefit, and in such an instance it does not benefit.


יִשְׂרָאֵל הַדָּשׁ בְּפָרָתוֹ שֶׁל עַכּוּ''ם עוֹבֵר מִשּׁוּם בַּל (דברים כה ד) "תַחְסֹם". וְהָעַכּוּ''ם הַדָּשׁ בְּפָרָתוֹ שֶׁל יִשְׂרָאֵל אֵינוֹ עוֹבֵר מִשּׁוּם בַּל תַחְסֹם. אָמַר לְעַכּוּ''ם חֲסֹם פָּרָתִי וְדוּשׁ בָּהּ. יָשַׁב לָהּ קוֹץ בְּפִיהָ וְדָשׁ בָּהּ וַהֲרֵי אֵינָהּ אוֹכֶלֶת. הִרְבִּיץ לָהּ אֲרִי מִבַּחוּץ אוֹ שֶׁהִרְבִּיץ בְּנָהּ מִבַּחוּץ. הֲרֵי שֶׁצָּמְאָה וְאֵינוֹ מַשְׁקֶה אוֹתָהּ. פָּרַס עוֹר עַל גַּבֵּי הַדַּיִשׁ כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא תֹּאכַל. כָּל זֶה וְכַיּוֹצֵא בּוֹ אָסוּר וְאֵינוֹ לוֹקֶה. הָיָה הַדָּבָר שֶׁהִיא עוֹשָׂה בּוֹ רַע לִבְנֵי מֵעֶיהָ וּמַזִּיקָהּ אוֹ שֶׁהָיְתָה חוֹלָה וְאִם תֹּאכַל מִזֶּה מַתְרֶזֶת מֻתָּר לְמָנְעָהּ. שֶׁלֹּא הִקְפִּידָה תּוֹרָה אֶלָּא עַל הֲנָאָתָהּ וַהֲרֵי אֵינָהּ נֶהֱנֵית:


When a priest is threshing grain that is terumah or grain that is definitely terumat ma'aser with a cow that belongs to an Israelite, he is not subject to violating the prohibition against muzzling them.

This law also applies when cows thresh grain that is ma'aser sheni and when cows veer from the path. Nevertheless, because of the impression that might be created, when the cows are threshing grain that is terumah or ma'aser sheni the worker should bring that type of grain and place it in the food sack hanging below their mouths.


פָּרָה שֶׁל יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁהָיָה כֹּהֵן דָּשׁ בָּהּ בִּתְרוּמָה וּבִתְרוּמַת מַעֲשֵׂר שֶׁל וַדַּאי. וְכֵן פָּרוֹת הַדָּשׁוֹת בְּמַעֲשֵׂר שֵׁנִי. וּפָרוֹת הַמְהַלְּכוֹת עַל הַתְּבוּאָה. לְפִי שֶׁיָּרַט לָהֶן הַדֶּרֶךְ אֵינוֹ עוֹבֵר עֲלֵיהֶן מִשּׁוּם בַּל (דברים כה ד) "תַּחְסֹם". אֲבָל מִפְּנֵי מַרְאִית הָעַיִן אִם הָיוּ דָּשׁוֹת בִּתְרוּמָה וּמַעֲשֵׂר שֵׁנִי מֵבִיא מְעַט מֵאוֹתוֹ הַמִּין וְתוֹלֶה לָהֶן בַּקְּרֻסְטְלִין שֶׁבְּפִיהֶן:


When a person muzzles a cow that is threshing produce that is ma'aser sheni which is demai terumat ma'aser which is demai or produce that grew from terumah he violates the prohibition against muzzling the animal.


הַדָּשׁ בְּמַעֲשֵׂר שֵׁנִי שֶׁל דְּמַאי וּבִתְרוּמַת מַעֲשֵׂר שֶׁל דְּמַאי וּבְגִדּוּלֵי תְּרוּמָה עוֹבֵר מִשּׁוּם בַּל (דברים כה ד) "תַּחְסֹם":


The owner of an ox is permitted to make his animal hungry and aggrieve it so that it will eat a large quantity of the grain that it is threshing. Conversely, the renter of the ox may feed it hay so that it will not eat a large quantity of the grain that it is threshing.

Similarly, an employer may provide his workers with wine so that they will not eat many grapes. Conversely, the workers may dip their bread in brine so they will eat many grapes.

A worker may not, however, perform work at night and then hire himself out during the day, or work with his ox in the evening and then rent it out in the morning. Similarly, he should not starve and aggrieve himself and give his food to his sons, because this leads to stealing from the work due his employer, for his energy will be sapped and his thinking unclear, and he will not be able to perform his work robustly.


רַשַּׁאי בַּעַל הַפָּרָה לְהַרְעִיב פָּרָתוֹ וּלְסַגְּפָהּ כְּדֵי שֶׁתֹּאכַל הַרְבֵּה מִן הַדַּיִשׁ. וְרַשַּׁאי הַשּׂוֹכֵר לְהַאֲכִילָהּ פְּקִיעֵי עָמִיר כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא תֹּאכַל הַרְבֵּה מִן הַדַּיִשׁ. כַּיּוֹצֵא בּוֹ רַשַּׁאי בַּעַל הַבַּיִת לְהַשְׁקוֹת פּוֹעֲלִים יַיִן כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יֹאכְלוּ עֲנָבִים הַרְבֵּה. וְרַשָּׁאִין פּוֹעֲלִין לִטְבּל פִּתָּן בְּצִיר כְּדֵי שֶׁיֹּאכְלוּ עֲנָבִים הַרְבֵּה. אֲבָל אֵין הַפּוֹעֵל רַשַּׁאי לַעֲשׂוֹת מְלַאכְתּוֹ בַּלַּיְלָה וּלְהַשְׂכִּיר עַצְמוֹ בַּיּוֹם אוֹ לָדוּשׁ בְּפָרָתוֹ עַרְבִית וּלְהַשְׂכִּירָהּ שַׁחֲרִית. וְלֹא יִהְיֶה מַרְעִיב וּמְסַגֵּף עַצְמוֹ וּמַאֲכִיל מְזוֹנוֹתָיו לְבָנָיו מִפְּנֵי גֵּזֶל מְלַאכְתּוֹ שֶׁל בַּעַל הַבַּיִת. שֶׁהֲרֵי תָּשֵׁשׁ כֹּחוֹ וְתֵחָלֵשׁ דַּעְתּוֹ וְלֹא יַעֲשֶׂה מְלָאכָה בְּכֹחַ:


Just as the employer is warned not to steal the wage of the poor person or to withhold it from him, the poor person is forewarned not to steal from the work due his employer and neglect his work slightly here and there, spending the entire day in deceit.

Instead, he is obligated to be precise with regard to his time. The importance of such preciseness is indicated by our Sages' ruling that workers should not recite the fourth blessing of grace, so as not to neglect their work.

Similarly, a worker is obligated to work with all his strength, for Jacob the righteous man said Genesis 31:7: "I served your father with all my strength." Therefore, he was granted a reward even in this world, as indicated by ibid. 30:43: "And the man became prodigiously wealthy."

Blessed be God who grants assistance.


כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁמֻּזְהָר בַּעַל הַבַּיִת שֶׁלֹּא יִגְזל שְׂכַר עָנִי וְלֹא יְעַכְּבֶנּוּ כָּךְ הֶעָנִי מֻזְהָר שֶׁלֹּא יִגְזל מְלֶאכֶת בַּעַל הַבַּיִת וְיִבָּטֵל מְעַט בְּכָאן וּמְעַט בְּכָאן וּמוֹצִיא כָּל הַיּוֹם בְּמִרְמָה אֶלָּא חַיָּב לְדַקְדֵּק עַל עַצְמוֹ בַּזְּמַן שֶׁהֲרֵי הִקְפִּידוּ עַל בְּרָכָה רְבִיעִית שֶׁל בִּרְכַּת הַמָּזוֹן שֶׁלֹּא יְבָרֵךְ אוֹתָהּ. וְכֵן חַיָּב לַעֲבֹד בְּכָל כֹּחוֹ שֶׁהֲרֵי יַעֲקֹב הַצַּדִּיק אָמַר כִּי בְּכָל כֹּחִי עָבַדְתִּי אֶת אֲבִיכֶן. לְפִיכָךְ נָטַל שְׂכַר זֹאת אַף בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (בראשית ל מג) "וַיִּפְרֹץ הָאִישׁ מְאֹד מְאֹד": סְלִיקוּ לְהוּ הִלְכוֹת שְׂכִירוּת

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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