Demai, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Three



An employer has a duty, at least under certain circumstances, to feed his employees. Our mishnah deals with a situation in which the worker does not trust that the employer has tithed the produce and therefore needs to tithe the produce himself. 


Mishnah Three

1)      A worker who does not trust his employer [in respect of tithes], may take one dried fig and say:  “This one and the nine which come after it shall become tithe for the ninety which I shall eat. This one shall become the terumat maaser for them, and the last ones shall be second tithe which shall be exchanged for money.” And he must put aside one dried fig.  

2)      Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel says: he does not put one aside, because this reduce the work for his employer.  

3)      Rabbi Yose says: he does not put one aside, because this is a court stipulation [imposed upon the employer].



Section one:  This formula is basically the same formula as we saw in yesterday’s mishnah. The difference in this mishnah is the question of whether the one fig that has been designated “terumat maaser”—the terumah taken from the tithe—will be given to the priest from the worker’s share or from the employer’s.  Note that all of the other tithes will be eaten by the worker himself, so there is no problem with them, only with the terumat maaser which can only be eaten by a preist.

According to the first opinion, the worker himself gives of his share for terumat maaser.  So if the employer gives him 100 figs, he only gets to keep 99.

Section two:  Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel holds that the employer gives the terumat maaser because if the worker were to give the terumat maaser, this would reduce the amount of work he does.  How so?  By eating one less fig he will have less energy.  [Anecdotally, I have noticed that sometimes that one fig will make all the difference in the world to my energy level!].  Interestingly, according to Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel the owner gives because it is in his own interest for the worker to eat as much food as the worker needs.

Section three:  Rabbi Yose agrees with Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel that the employer must give the terumat maaser, but he offers a different reason.  According to Rabbi Yose, the court made a special stipulation that the employer must give the terumat maaser. Assumedly this stipulation was made in order to protect the interests of the worker.