Torah: A New Year Opens Her Gates: “What Makes a Thief?”

by Andrea Simantov | September 2012 | 1 Comment »

By A. Simantov

 

Rashi attributes Amalek’s unprovoked attack on the Children of Israel in the desert by saying, “If you lied with weights and measures, beware of the attacks of the enemy.” Our eternal enemy — Amalek — arrives when we deal improperly with our fellow man.

There is a clear principle attached to the laws of weights and measures, and the Torah differentiates between one who steals and one who distorts. The ganav (thief) has a yetzer harah (evil inclination). To satisfy his needs, he steals and, in committing this sin, must be punished. But the one who distorts his weights and measures is not at all giving in to the base desires of his yetzer hara; rather, he is cleverly calculating, ounce by ounce, the long-term effect of a change in weights. He is ‘stealing’ tiny, inconsequential amounts from all his customers. He connives and conspires to outwit the public. In short, he seems to lack only the belief that God will take care of his family in an honest and orderly fashion. This is not the act of a desperate thief but, rather, the calculating act of one who lacks the simple faith of a believer in God. Honesty in weights and measures is not just ‘good business;’ it is the ultimate sign of emunah (faith) in God.

In his noteworthy sefer, “The Horeb,” Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch states, “Do not imagine that you are too weak. Do not think that because you have given way to sin so often you cannot finally gain the victory over it. If God demands something of you, He also gives you the strength to achieve it. He furnishes every man at his entry into the world with the strength to perform his duty, and you have only to strive for teshuva (repentance/return) for a return to inner purity, to become again what you once were. … You are to owe all else to God, but your virtue only to yourself. Therefore, it is that you have the strength to be virtuous; build yourself on it boldly.”

Emunah is best exemplified by a strong and continuous vigilance in all dealings with our fellow human beings. It is appropriate that before Rosh Hashanah, we intone and absorb the phrase “Kol mezoinoisov shel adam k’tzivin loi m’Rosh Hashanah ad Rosh Hashanah” (All of man’s provisions are determined for him from Rosh Hashanah to Rosh Hashanah) — Gemorra Beitzah.

 

 

From the Torah to your table: reasons for slander

Before the Egyptians afflicted our forefathers, they first mounted a slander campaign against them and made them appear evil in the eyes of others.

Once they had everyone thinking the Israelites were evil and not worthy of standard human rights, they could make their decrees against them; the rest of their people accepted this otherwise unacceptable behavior.

More recently, this was the strategy of the Nazis with their propaganda, vilifying Jews as a prelude to the actual oppression. It is clearly an effective strategy for people who want to rationalize their mistreatment of or lack of assistance to others. They try to justify their cruelty or apathy by claiming the other person has done serious wrong and is a terrible menace.

Before accepting these negative reports, it is incumbent upon those hearing them to determine if they are really true. We must ask ourselves, “What might be motivating this person to relate this negative material? Perhaps he is fabricating the story or greatly exaggerating what happened in order to justify himself for something he did or would like to do.”

Discuss this at your Shabbat table.

 

A final thought

What should we be thinking about and feeling during the closing Yom Kippur neilah service? Quite literally, a world of opportunity lies before us; the shofar’s sound is a climax to our efforts to build a better world for ourselves and our loved ones. Gmar tov u’chatimah tovah!

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September Torah portions

 

Sept. 1: Ki Tetze (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)

Sept. 8: Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8)

Sept. 15: Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20)

Sept. 22: Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30)

Sept. 29: Ha’azinu (Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52)

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