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    Mishnah Bava Kama 10:10

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    Arik
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    Mishnah Bava Kama 10:10

    Post  Arik on Wed Dec 01, 2010 10:10 am

    Shreds [of wool] which are taken out by the washer belong to him but those which the carder removes belong to the proprietor. The washer may remove the three threads at the edge and they will belong to him, but all over and above that will belong to the proprietor, though if they were black upon a white surface, he may remove them all and they will belong to him. If a tailor left a thread sufficient to sew with, or a patch of the width of three [fingers] by three [fingers], it will belong to the proprietor. Whatever a carpenter removes with the adze belongs to him, but that which he removes by the axe belongs to the proprietor. If, however, he was working on the proprietor’s premises, even the sawdust belongs to the proprietor.


    Commentary

    The final mishnah of Bava Kama delineates what a worker may claim as his because it comes off incidently from a product in the course of the work and what he must return to the owner (proprieter). A washer of wool will inevitably find some shreds of raw wool left from the washing. These are not of major value, so he may keep them. After doing this many times he may have enough wool for a profitable sale. The comber (carder) may not keep anything since it is his job to loosen the wool into smaller pieces of wool for the owner’s use. Therefore he must give everything back to the wool’s owner. A washer of a finished wool woven product may remove non-woolen threads that are part of the finishing of the wool product, but no more lest the weave unravel. This is because the weave would look better if it was finished in wool, which would be like the rest of the woven wool product. The tailor who leaves over enough thread for sewing or a three finger by three finger patch, which is considered the smallest piece of cloth that constitutes a usable patch for clothing, must give all these usable products back to their owner. Wood removed by a carpenter falls into several categories: 1) the curly pieces left after a razor-like cutter has been used to create a smooth surface; 2) larger and usable pieces of wood created by axing; 3) and sawdust, which has the least amount of use. The curly wood and sawdust belong to the carpenter since they are not generally usable. The larger pieces of wood belong to the owner. If the worker works on the owner’s property the owner has the right to everything because we must assume that anything on his property belongs to him, whether useful or not.

    The general rule that emerges is that basically unusable leftovers from work belong to the worker; usable product remnants belong to the owner.

    Understanding This Mishnah's Larger Message

    The mishnah assumers that an owner of a product really does not care about getting back unusable remnants. In Talmudic terms we say that the owner “forgives” this loss. The owner is not assumed to grant this “forgiveness” for by-products of work that might be useful to him. There is an attempt to give workers whatever advantage can be given legally without trespassing on the legitimate claims of the owner. Thus the mishnah should be seen as favoring neither workers or “bosses” but rather seeking to do justice across the board.


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