In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review January 14, 2008 / 7 Shevat 5768

Billable hours

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

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Deduct distractions?

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: I work by the hour, but I'm easily distractible. Do I have to deduct idle time from my time log?

A: Jewish law and tradition put great emphasis on the work ethic of employees. A worker is expected to give his or her full effort to the employer during the time at work. This ideal is exemplified in a remarkable story in the Talmud about Abba Chilkia: (1)

When the world needed rain, the rabbis would send to him and he would seek mercy, and the rains would come. One time the world needed rain, and the rabbis sent a pair of rabbis to him so that he could seek mercy and bring rain. They went to his house but did not find him; they went to the field and found him hoeing. They greeted him but he didn't [even] turn to them.

The Talmud then tells that when he arrived home, he went up to the roof with his wife where both prayed secretly, so that no one would know that it was his prayers that brought the rain; then the rain began to fall.

They told him: We know that the rain is falling because of you. But please explain something strange to us: Why, when we greeted you, didn't you turn to us? He replied, I was working as a day laborer, and I said to myself, I must not slack.

Abba Chilkia was a day laborer, not a renowned sage. But the prayers of a simple laborer who was scrupulous about his interpersonal obligations, including his work ethic, was acceptable on high far beyond that of the holy rabbis who sent to ask his prayers.

Maimonides codifies a similar idea in his Code (2):

Just as the boss is cautioned not to steal the wages of the poor or delay them, so is the poor person cautioned not to steal the work of the boss and idle a little here and a little there, until he passes the entire day in deceit. Rather, he must be scrupulous with time.

Alas, most of us are not at the level of Abba Chilkia or Maimonides, and occasionally we do idle: take a personal phone call, glance at a newspaper or the internet, etc. What do we do then?

In general, once a person is at the workplace and under the supervision of the employer, it is improper to dock the worker's pay for "under-work". The worker is obligated to work hard, but if he doesn't then the employer has to absorb the loss and chalk it up to inadequate supervision. (While pay shouldn't be docked unless there is an explicit agreement, a worker can certainly be discharged for idling.) There is nothing paradoxical about this; it is no different than the case of a bailee (paid watchman). The bailee, having received payment for supervising an object, must pay the owner if it is stolen, but that doesn't remove the liability of the thief.

However, your case is different. You are self-employed, and not directly supervised by your boss. In your case you should definitely deduct any time you spend idling from your time log. I saw an outstanding example of this when I first visited the typesetter for my book Meaning in Mitzvos. As I was talking to him, he took a phone call and simultaneously started a stopwatch so he would not charge me for time spent with another customer.

Sometimes workers make the excuse that occasional idling makes them work more effectively, and this may well be true. But that doesn't excuse recording those hours or minutes. Eating and sleeping make you more effective too, but you are expected to get enough rest and food on your own hours to work effectively in your work time. In fact, in the very same chapter Maimonides rules that worker may not moonlight if it makes him too tired to work, or stint on food if it makes him too weak to work effectively.

Every worker should strive to be maximally effective during all work hours, and to work 60 minutes an hour. Your work is first of all your responsibility, not that of the employer. But if you record your own hours, then you should definitely deduct time spent idling. This is particularly true for high-income professionals such as lawyers and accountants. These individuals bill hundreds of dollars an hour because they are expected to give a high level of skill and dedication for each hour. If Abba Chilkia was unwilling to distract himself from field work in his job as a day laborer, then certainly skilled professionals can be expected to screen out distractions during their billable hours.

SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud, Taanis 23a-b (2) Maimonides' Code, Laws of Hire 13:7


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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.


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