In Devarim 24:17

לֹא תַטֶּה מִשְׁפַּט גֵּר יָתוֹם וְלֹא תַחֲבֹל בֶּגֶד אַלְמָנָה.

‏You shall not subvert the rights of the stranger or the fatherless; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pawn.

And an article by OU which quotes Mishne Torah Deios 6:10:

Here’s how to treat orphans and widows: We must speak to them gently and treat them with honor. We may not cause them pain with work or hurt their feelings with sharp words. We must show more concern for their finances than for our own. Any person who angers them, hurts their feelings, oppresses them, or causes them a financial loss violates this prohibition. This is all the more so if one should happen to strike them or curse them.

If an employee was one these and they are under performing in their work and the employer has given him or her ample opportunity to improve or possibly there was a gross misconduct at work are the employees protected by the biblical verse? Or can the employer be able to let them go thinking that he has not transgressed the Torah.

This is purely halachic discussion not Halacha l’maseh.

1 Answer 1


It appears that one is permitted to act with widows and orphans as is required but one needs to do so with extra care and mercy. This might mean giving them extra coaching and another chance vs. a normal situation. Note that for orphans the commandment only applies until they become independent.

Specifically the Torah is asking us here (and in Shemot 22:21-23) to be extra careful in how we deal with widows and orphans. But this does not mean than anything is allowed - as the Rambam writes (MT Deot 6:10) regarding a student who needs to be corrected

When [is one punished for violating this commandment]? When one causes them suffering for one's own purposes. However, it is permitted for a teacher to cause them suffering while teaching them Torah, or a craft, or in order to train them in proper behavior.

However the Torah asks us to take "extra care" as the Rambam continues

Nevertheless, he should not treat them in the same manner as he treats others, but rather make a distinction with regard to them and treat them with gentility, great mercy, and honor for [Proverbs 22:22] states: "For God will take up their cause."

This is also the language of the Sefer HaChinuch (mitzva 65)

However even for their benefit, it is a commandment to be more lenient upon them than upon other people.

And the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch writes similarly (chapter 29)

Nevertheless, [the teacher] should be careful to guide them gently and with great compassion

Regarding orphans, this only applies until they are self-standing (Rambam ibid.)

Until when are they considered orphans in the context [of this mitzvah]? Until they no longer need a mature individual to support, instruct, and care for them and are able to see to all their own needs by themselves, like other adults.

Any practical question on this should of course be asked from a rav since details can make a significant difference.

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