Jewish Values in the Home

Why Fair Treatment for Domestic Workers is Jewish


Observe the Sabbath day, to make it holy as YHVH your God commanded you. Six days you will labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is Sabbath to YHVH, your God. You shall not do any work, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servant and your ox and your donkey or any animal, or any stranger who is within your gates, so that your male and female servant will rest like you. And you will remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and YHVH your God brought you out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, YHVH your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15


You shall not exploit an impoverished or abject worker either from your brothers or from the alien who is in your land, within your gates. In his day (of work) you shall give his wages—the sun will not set on it, because he is poor, and his life depends on it and so that he will not call out against you to God and it will be a sin on you.

Deuteronomy 24:14-15

Whoever withholds the wages of a hired laborer transgresses these five prohibitions of five denominations and one affirmative precept as follows: You shall not oppress or rob your neighbor; You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor; The wages of one who is hired shall not stay with you all night; Oh his day (of work) you will give him his wage; and the sun shall not set on it.

Talmud Bavli, Baba Metzia 111a

Since he places his life in jeopardy for these wages, he places himself in mortal danger (he climbs a wall, or suspends himself from a tree), it is a sin on you (to withhold them).

Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzhak,1040-1105) on Deuteronomy 24:15


ONE who injures a fellow human being becomes liable to him for five things: for damages, for pain, for the cost of healing, for loss of time and for degradation.

                Mishnah Baba Kama, 8:1


If donkey-drivers [are engaged to convey a load of grain from a certain place and] go [there] and find no grain, or laborers [hired to plough a field] go and find the field a swamp [unfit for ploughing], (the contractor) must pay them in full.

                Talmud Bavli, Baba Metzia 76a


It is taught: 'for it is good for him with you' (Deuteronomy 15:16)– ‘with you’ in eating, ‘with you’ in drinking. So it shouldn't happen that you eat white bread while he (your domestic servant) eats coarse bread; you drink old wine while he drinks new wine; you sleep in a bed of fleece while he sleeps on a bed of straw..

Talmud Bavli, Kiddushin 20a


No discussion of employing a NJH (non-Jewish housekeeper) would be complete without a mention of K’vod Habriyos (human dignity) and K’vod Shamayim (the Honor of G-d). In ten words or less: One must treat the NJH well. This means much more than just paying what we promise to pay. It means acting on our awareness that the NJH has inherent worth by dint of her humanity.

Rabbi Eliyahu Ferrell, Orthodox Union Kosher Authority (present day)

How can we give the keys to our homes - and entrust the welfare of our aging parents and young children! - to our domestic workers, and yet not respect them enough to secure their basic rights and dignity?

Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, Uri l’Tzedek (present day)