The term labor is a broad category that is used to refer to workers, jobs, and wages. Labor can also refer to the labor movement, to organized labor, and to labor unions. The Jewish people, and the Reform Movement, have deep historical ties to the labor movement. To this day, labor unions remain one of the best ways to ensure workers receive the compensation, benefits, and safe working conditions they need.

The Torah emphasizes the importance of fairness to workers.

"You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer…you must pay out the wages due on the same day, before the sun sets, for the workers is needy and urgently depends on it” (Deuteronomy 24:14-15).

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Parashat Ki Teitzei

September 7, 2022
In this parashah, we are simply and directly commanded to pay our workers. We are compelled to pay the people who work for us in a timely manner because they rely upon those wages to take care of themselves, their families, and even their communities. Nachmanides, the medieval sage known as Rambam explains, “For if you do not pay him immediately when he leaves work, he will starve and die that night.” While that may feel like an extreme example of what might happen in our 21st-century world, it is not so far-fetched when we look deeper into the inequalities of our employment systems, particularly in the United States.

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