י״א באייר ה׳תשע״ט (May 16, 2019)

Bekhorot 29a-b: Teaching Torah Without Pay

Can a judge be paid for his efforts?

According to the Mishna on today’s daf, “If one takes payment to act as a judge, his judgments are void; to give evidence, his evidence is void.” The source for this is explained in the Gemara by Rav Yehuda quoting Rav as based on a passage in Sefer (4:5), where Moshe says “Even as the Lord my God commanded me,” which is understood to mean that just as God taught Torah to Moshe without payment, so he taught others without recompense, and others should teach Torah without being paid, as well.

The idea that accepting payment for teaching Torah is a problem is articulated most clearly by the Rambam in his commentary to Massekhet Avot (4:5) and in his Mishneh Torah (Hilkhot Talmud Torah, 3:10).

The Mishna in Massekhet Avot teaches:

Rabbi Tzaddok would say: Do not separate yourself from the community. Do not act as a counselor-at-law (when serving as a judge). Do not make the Torah a crown to magnify yourself with, or a spade with which to dig. So would Hillel say: one who makes personal use of the crown of Torah shall perish. Hence, one who benefits himself from the words of Torah, removes his life from the world.

Based on this, the Rambam rules:

Anyone who comes to the conclusion that he should involve himself in Torah study without doing work and derive his livelihood from charity, desecrates God’s name, dishonors the Torah, extinguishes the light of faith, brings evil upon himself, and forfeits the life of the world to come, for it is forbidden to derive benefit from the words of Torah in this world.  Our Sages declared: “Whoever benefits from the words of Torah forfeits his life in the world.” Also, they commanded and declared: “Do not make them a crown to magnify oneself, nor an axe to chop with.” Also, they commanded and declared: “Love work and despise Rabbinic positions.” All Torah that is not accompanied by work will eventually be negated and lead to sin. Ultimately, such a person will steal from others.It is a tremendous advantage for a person to derive his livelihood from his own efforts. This attribute was possessed by the pious of the early generations. In this manner, one will merit all types of honor and benefit in this world and in the world to come, as [Tehillim 128:2] states: “If you eat the toil of your hands, you will be happy and it will be good for you.””You will be happy” – in this world. “It will be good for you” – in the world to come, which is entirely good.