Dear Rabbi,

I am from the UK and wondered whether you would comment on what is known as the minimum wage.

Because of the story in the Garden Of Eden I believe that man was told that he had to work in order to live.It seems that millions of people in this country are not allowed to work and consequently are out of work because they have to be paid the minimum hourly rate/wage.

I realise that you would not wish any employee/employer to break the law of the land but is it right that millions of people are prevented from working and not able to carry out the will of God because of a secular law which prevents them from doing so

What is the Jewish stance on this? Furthermore is not it a Law that man must work to survive which was given at the time of creation and applied to all people including Jews? If it was a Law then why are there not 614?

Thank you in anticipation Tony


This question relates to a subtle distinction between a formal law, and a virtue.

The Torah/Bible includes a set of clear instructions, which are its laws, as found primarily in the books Leviticus and Deuteronomy, as well as in some parts of Exodus and Numbers. In addition to the formal laws, the Torah also includes matters that are virtues, rather than actual laws.

The concept of working for a living is presented as something that a person must do (“six days shall you work … and the seventh shall be a Sabbath for Hashem, your God”), and the Sages of the Talmud extolled the virtue of a person who works and achieves financial independence by his own labor.

At the same time, it is not a formal commandment or instruction – which is why there are not 614 mitzvot – but rather a virtue. Because of this, it can be “balanced” against other virtues that are also important.

The idea of a “minimum wage” comes to ensure that employers don’t exploit the weakness of poor laborers for their selfish purposes, and this is of course a noble aim. It is true that this might prevent some potential workers from working, but this is a sacrifice that many modern countries are prepared to make, in recognition of the need to protect workers from employers.

Although the Torah doesn’t mention the concept of a minimum wage, the idea is therefore legitimate, provided it is carefully implemented in striking a working and beneficial balance between allowing people to work and protecting workers’ rights.

Best wishes.

Share The Knowledge

Not what you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged Employees and employers or ask your own question.

2 Responses to “Minimum Wage in Torah”

  1. Am I to believe that God would approve of millions of the youth and later adults of the world,who come out of schools unable to read or write, for example.Being unable to command the minimum wage.
    Should they be destined to remain unemployed for the rest of their lives because some secularist in government says thet X$/£ per hour is the law?

    Kind regards Tony, thank you for taking the trouble

    • I understand your concern for unemployment. At the same time, there is also a concern for the protection of workers, and this is also a value that Scripture teaches us, so that some balance has to be struck.
      Best wishes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *