Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Morsel on Work

Work, and who should do it when, where and why, is an ongoing topic on many blogs. The following is a well-written book that deals with the topic and should perhaps be "required" reading by those involved in the discussion on the topic.

By the Sweat of Your Brow: Reflections on Work and the WorkPlace in Classic Jewish Thought
David J. Schnall
Publisher: KTAV Publishing House, Inc./Yeshiva University Press
Pub. Date: May 2001
ISBN-13: 9780881257519

In these nine essays, Schnall (a Rabbi, as well as a scholar of management and administration at Yeshiva University) considers the place of work in Jewish biblical, talmudic, and religious literature. He argues for the inherent dignity of labor, the rights of workers to be treated with respect, and the need for time devoted to other pursuits, including family life, community, and personal spiritual growth. He also addresses issues of interest to managers, like productivity, safety, public employment, and the role of unions.

From some reviews of the book:
"*The Jewish attitude towards work. Addressing an analysis of 900 work-related statements from Talmud, Midrash, etc. Schnall finds that 84% of references to work are positive. For example, one rabbi interprets Moses's call to "choose life" (Deut. 30:19) as choosing a vocation (p. 48). And the Talmud states that "If you eat by the work of your hands . . . Happy are you in this world, and it will go well for you in the world-to-come." (p. 49)....*Should Torah scholars work at other trades? Schnall again quotes an analyses of analysis of about 900 statements in the Talmud, Midrash, etc. and finds that 65% of statements endorse pursuit of Torah and work jointly, 29% favor Torah only, and 6% place work first. In the last millenium, there has been a similar division of authority, which Schnall briefly describes - a majority view favoring Torah and work, complimented by a vigorous minority view. "


Anonymous said...

I know you say the author is a rabbi and works for YU but is the book a frum reading on the subject? Or is it just generally Jewish?

ProfK said...

If you can define frum in less than 436,490,689,284,529 words I'll give you a medal. But yes, it is a "frum" book. Whether we mean the same thing by that I'll leave you to decide.