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  • Aliza Davidovit

Day#8: “Thou shalt not steal"--Are you as honest as you think?

You may hand back the extra bills a teller mistakenly gives you, but that doesn’t make you a tsaddik. The Talmud “sees stealing as any unjustified way of depriving one’s fellow of what is rightfully his.” (Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen). Theft is not always the reallocation of a tangible item. Manipulating someone’s mind or heart is considered stealing. Trying to outdo a man’s wife to lure his eyes and steal his attention and affection toward you, is stealing (or a man trying to impress another man’s wife). When you make appointments and don’t show up, your stealing people’s time. When you make salespeople believe you’re going to buy something when you have no intention to, your stealing their time and emotions by raising their hopes. If you’re a doctor and make people wait to pretend you’re busy your stealing their time and trust. Don’t lead people on to believe that you will benefit them in some way if you have no intention to do so, their reliance on your manipulative words can redirect the course of their life and ruin it.


Taking small things like grapes, artificial sweeteners, and not paying, things you deem as having no value, is the reason why God destroyed the world with a flood. You’re not the only one “taking” these seemingly benign portions, it adds up, and yet the proprietor can seek no recompense and justice is subverted. (Rabbi Elie Munk) Using copyrighted pictures, plagiarizing, taking credit for the work, ideas, words and creativity of others is stealing. Not giving credit to Torah scholars for their work and insights is not just stealing intellectual property but is tantamount to stealing their soul. (Eliezer Wenger in the name of Rabbi Yeshayahu Horowitz). As a creative inspired person myself, I can vouch without doubt that taking credit for another’s ideas and creativity is also tantamount to stealing one’s soul. The pain runs inexplicably deep.


The sages also say this commandment is talking about kidnapping (the prohibition of stealing a person).


Of course the commandment also blatantly means don’t steal! Don’t take what is not yours. Pay what you owe. As Ibn Ezra points out, one cannot trick another in a calculation or measurement or weight. Deal honestly. Even if you’re in business to make money, you have no right to rip people off. Give people what they pay for with no false promises or guarantees. For you it may be just another dollar, for them it may their last dollar and their last hope. And despite your best arguments, it’s a sin to steal from a rich person too. “Also you can’t take things from a spouse without asking or even from a child.” (Eliezer Wenger and halachipedia.com)

This 8th commandment is coupled with the 3rd Commandment: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain.” For one who steals will come to swear falsely that his actions are honest. (Rabbi Aaron Riskin)


Stealing doesn’t only involve what you are taking that isn’t yours, it also includes what you are not giving—charity. The Torah obligates tithing which mandates giving 10 percent of our earnings to the poor. The Tanya says we should give 20 percent. Either way, that money belongs to the poor and if you are not giving it out to charity, you are stealing. (Rabbi Aaron Raskin and Rabbi Yaron Reuven).


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