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Weekly Halacha

Selected Halachos Related to Parshas Noach

By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt

The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.


Several readers questioned the ruling quoted in a recently published column about Lo salin - Timely Payment(1). We stated that the prohibition of delaying payment does not apply to a Yeshiva or other public institutions. Some readers understood this to mean that a Yeshiva has no obligation to pay its bills on time, and they took exception to that both on legal and on moral grounds. Others simply wanted to know the source of the ruling and to understand the logic behind it. Since the matter bears explanation, I would like to clarify it:

Let it be emphatically stated that the ruling did not imply, nor did it intend to imply, that Yeshivos do not have to pay their bills on time. How and when the Yeshivos choose to pay their bills was not the subject of the column. Rather, our discussion centered on the definition and laws of the Biblical mitzvah of Lo salin. This mitzvah requires an employer to pay his worker before the day [or night] of his employment is over, or on the day [or night] that his wages are due. But as is true with all commandments of the Torah, we must turn to the Oral Tradition and to the Codes in order to define the exact parameters of the mitzvah and to understand when and where it applies.

Shulchan Aruch(2) rules that Lo salin applies only when an employee is hired directly by an employer. If, however, an employee is hired through an agent who makes it clear that it is the employer's responsibility to pay the employee's salary(3), then no one transgresses Lo salin, not the employer and not the agent(4). Rama adds that whenever an employee is aware that the person doing the hiring is not the actual boss, but merely a company agent, then Lo salin does not apply(5).

It follows, therefore, that for the Biblical prohibition of Lo salin to apply, two conditions must be met: 1) The employee must be hired directly by the employer, not by an agent or an agency; 2) there must be an "owner," one individual who is legally responsible for paying salaries and bills. If there is any ambiguity concerning who exactly is responsible, or if the person responsible for paying is not the one who actually promised the salary to the employee, then the Biblical prohibition of Lo salin does not apply.

Based on this definition of terms, Harav S.Y. Elyashiv is quoted(6) as ruling that if a public institution such as a Yeshiva is late in paying its employees, the Biblical prohibition of Lo salin was not transgressed. This is because a Yeshiva is not a private enterprise which has one owner who is responsible to pay the bills and salaries. Rather, a Yeshiva generally has a board of directors who appoints a principal or an executive director to hire the staff. The principal or executive director are "agents" of a non-specific "owner" (the board or the institution), who, according to the above-stated guidelines set by the Shulchan Aruch, are not affected by the prohibition of Lo salin(7).

But it is important to stress that we are defining the parameters of one specific mitzvah only, that of not paying a worker exactly when his work is completed or his pay is due. This is a mitzvah with limited applications, whose purpose is to show special sensitivity to a worker's needs and expectations. This mitzvah has nothing to do with the overall obligation of paying one's bills, debts, etc. in full and as soon as possible. Anyone who deliberately and brazenly withholds a worker's salary transgresses at least two different Biblical prohibition: You shall not cheat your fellow (by depriving a worker of his earnings - Rashi) and you shall not rob(8). Even an employer who intends to pay his employee but dallies with him by making him come back several times for his wages, transgresses a Rabbinical prohibition based on a verse in Mishlei(9): Do not say to your fellow go and come back go and come back and tomorrow I will give you... This prohibition applies to anyone and everyone, even one who technically does not transgress Lo salin according to the very specific definition given above(10).

In addition to the above, a separate argument can be made for exempting Yeshivos and other non-profit organizations from the prohibition of Lo salin. It is all-too-well-known that Yeshivos, etc., are not exactly cash-flow operations. When they are forced to delay payment to their staff, it is because they lack the necessary funds. Shulchan Aruch rules decisively (and this was quoted in the earlier column), that an employer who has no money to pay his employee does not transgress the prohibition of Lo salin. Thus, Yeshivos who are late in payment would not transgress this prohibition even if a Yeshiva is considered an "employer" according to the guidelines stated above.

Moreover it may be argued that an employee of a Yeshiva knows - prior to his employment - that it is possible that he may not be paid on time. Since he took the job anyway - knowing that it is a distinct possibility that he will not be paid on time - his case is similar to that of an employee with whom the employer has made an explicit pre-condition that he will not pay on time. Such a condition is Halachicaly valid(11).


Another issue which confounded some readers was a ruling quoted in a recent issue(12) concerning the correct berachah rishonah over mandelin, or soup nuts. The following rule was stated: "Chicken soup with noodles or croutons: A shehakol is recited over the soup and a mezonos over the noodles, etc. [Even though they merely enhance the soup, a mezonos is still required]." It was not explained, though, why the general halachah that a blessing over a main dish (ikar) covers an enhancer (tafel) as well - does not apply in this case.

The general rule that a blessing over an ikar exempts the blessing of the tafel food does not apply when the tafel food is a mezonos item made from the five species of grain. This is because foods made from the five species of grain are considered "important" and by their very nature cannot become tafel, or secondary, to another food(13). Accordingly, even in cases where the mezonos food is clearly enhancing the other food, e.g., soup nuts in chicken soup; vegetable salad with croutons, the blessing over the soup or salad does not "cover" the soup nuts or the croutons(14).

An important exception to this rule, however, is when the mezonos item is an absolute tafel. In certain, specific cases, a mezonos item is used in a manner that renders it completely "insignificant" and secondary. In these few cases, even its prominent status as a derivative of the five species of grain cannot help it maintain its significance and it becomes a secondary food. We will cite several examples:

Using an ice-cream cone as a holder for ice cream, i.e., using it merely in place of a cup, is considered an "insignificant" usage. Although the cone is a mezonos item, its blessing is "covered" by the shehakol on the ice-cream(15).

Taking the edge off whiskey with a piece of cake [or even bread] is an "insignificant" manner of eating cake. No mezonos is recited. [If, however, the cake is eaten for its own good taste or to satisfy one's hunger, the blessing is recited(16).]

Adding matzah meal to a raw meatball mixture in order to bind the ground meat or to give the meatballs a different color, is considered an insignificant usage of a "significant" (mezonos) item. The shehakol recited over the meat exempts the matzah meal as well(17).


1 Makkos 24a.

2 Recently published in The Weekly Halachah Discussion, vol. 2, pg. 512-515.

3 C.M. 339:7.

4 SIf, however, the agent said that he is responsible to pay, then Lo salin would apply to him.

5 For a deeper explanation of why we do not invoke shlucho shel adam k'moso concerning this halachah, see Tosfos Rid and Ritva to Bava Metzia 110b and Meshech Chachmah, Kedoshim 19:13.

6 Indeed, Shulchan Aruch Harav (Sechirus 18) rules that even l'chatchilah one may hire workers in this manner so as to sidestep the Biblical prohibition of Lo salin.

7 Avnei Yashfei 2:118.

8 Harav Elyashiv, however, was quick to point out that the reverse is not true. We have previously stated that Lo Salin applies to property rentals as well. Thus, if one owes a property rental fee to a Yeshiva, he would transgress Lo salin if the payment were late. Even though there is no specific "owner" who demands payment, Lo salin still applies. Apparently, the demand for payment does not have to come directly from the owner.

9 Kedoshim 19:13. An additional pasuk in Ki Seitzei 24:14 states: You shall not cheat a poor or destitute hired person... See Bava Metzia 61a and 111a for the Talmudic interpretation.

10 3:28. See Rashi ibid.

11 C.M. 339:7.

12 Shach C.M. 339:2.

13 Vaeschanan 5758.

14 O.C. 208:2. Rice and corn flour, however, are not included in this rule.

15 Mishnah Berurah 205:11 and 208:23. See also Magen Avraham 205:6 and 208:7. The shehakol over the soup should be recited before the mezonos; ibid.

16 Igros Moshe O.C. 4:43; Vezos ha-Berachah, pg. 234.

17 Mishnah Berurah 212:5 - who adds that often it is difficult to determine the reason for eating the cake.

18 O.C. 208:2,3.

Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 1999 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Project Genesis, Inc.

Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.

The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L'zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben Hinda. Weekly sponsorships are available--please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross

The series is distributed by the Harbotzas Torah Division of Congregation Shomre Shabbos, 1801 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118--HaRav Yisroel Grumer, Marah D'Asra



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