Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Theft, How serious is it? Originally posted June 12, 2008

This is from what I learnt during Tikun Leil on Shavuous- the bulk of this comes from Rabbi Hirsh Rosenblum, of the Emmarentia community in Johannesburg. The paraphrasing, and the addition of information regarding the redemption of the Maaser sheni is my own.

Oen issue that is often overlooked by people is theft.  Yes, people see it as bad, but they kinda see it as languishing down in the lost of “do nots” without realising just how wrong that impressions is.  We all condemn it, but we don’t see it as bad as many other types of crime and sin.

For starters on showing how serious it is, lets look at the reason for the flood in the time of Noach. There was rampant idoltary and sexual immorality yet why does God bring the flood? The Torah is explicit “ki maleh haerezt chamas”- “and the land was filled with dishonesty”. Yep- the world was wiped clean not because of idolatry or sexual immorality, but because of dishonesty!

How do we explain this? Most theft is not life shattering, theft against a large corporate may even have very little to no noticeable effect- yet for this the world was destroyed? It can be explained like this: God is the ultimate Judge, adjudicator and dispensor of all our needs in the world.  On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we pray to God to give us wealth and comfort.  The meforshim point out that the Bircas Kohenim is also understood in materialistic terms, that we ask God to bless ue with parnasah (our livelihood).  Yes- we have to do our bit, to work in order to receive our parnassa- but the amount available is determined by God.

So how does this relate to God?  If everything comes ftom God, if every cent we earn is a gift from God- then there is an inherent sanctity to every cent we have that is earned by honest means (the same does not apply to money earned through dishonest means).  Now, we know from the laws of Maaser Sheni, that we can transfer the sanctity of money onto an item bought (the case is that Maaser sheni has to be eaten in Jerusalem but would go off if we had to wait to take it there. Instead, we redeem the Maaser Sheni with money- transferring the sanctity to the money; and then buy food to eat in Jerusalem with the money- once again transferring the sanctity to the food).  So- here, the inherent sanctity of the money is transferred to everything we buy! (No, it is not actually considered sanctified, but it is seen as coming from God and thus connected to sanctity).  When a thief steals something- they are not just stealing the physical object (or money), they are denying the sanctity of God, essentially saying that God does not rule the world and he has a right to take things that God has given to others!  For this reason it states that Geneivah (theft) stands against, and exceeds, idoltary, sexual immorality and murder as it is a fundamental denial and abrogation of God and God’s role in the world!

June 24, 2008 - Posted by | Chagim, Other Torah, Torah | , , ,

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