The Living Torah is a weekly publication distributed in and around North West London. Written by members of Hasmonean High School's Sixth Form programme - we aim to bring you divrei torah for your Shabbat table each and everyweek.

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Thursday, 7 January 2010

Theft and Humility

רשי comments that the sin of robbery was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Although society at the time of the flood was rampantly committing gross iniquities such as idolatry, murder and immorality, it was the sin of stealing that sealed their fate. This begs the question of why was robbery viewed as such a powerful indictment?

The Gemara in Bava Metzia says that there are two types of robbers: A גנב and a גזלן . A גנב is someone who steals by night and a גזלן is one who steals by day. At first glance it seems that the Gemara is just categorizing different kinds of robbers according to when they commit the act. However there is a fundamental difference be-tween the two; the גזלן exhibits no יראת שמים and runs amok in broad daylight. The גנב is half way there - he at least exhibits יראת אדם , although he also has no יראת ה

רשי uses the term גזל to describe the sin of דור המבול.

There is a Pasuk in Mishlei that discusses יראת שמים (see above - this Pasuk is literally translated as “In the wake of humility comes fear of Hashem”). According to R‟Hirsch (The Wisdom of Mishlei) there is no higher, more ennobling virtue than ענוה - the mindset in which someone is totally unconscious of his own importance. What-ever the ענו may be, possess, desire or even accomplish, it is never of his own making; it is exclusively the product of a higher Being. According to Mishlei, the immediate effect of ענוה is יראת ה . In the sense of person's inner conviction יראת ה is actually synonymous with ענוה , in fact ענוה without יראת ה is entirely inconceivable. ענוה is the purest expression of true יראה . But in the sense of the stamp upon a life led in obedience to Hashem then יראת ה is the direct consequence of ענוה – which automatically resolves itself into the fulfilment of Hashem's will. The two concepts have a symbiotic relationship.

However there is a question on this from the con-tinuation of the Pasuk in Mishlei, there it says that יראת ה‘ is not the only consequence of ענוה . It also mentions that עשר (wealth) is a natural consequence, – even though the acquisition of riches was never further from the direct intention and endeavours of the ענו . To answer this there is a famous quote from Pirkei Avot that says

"איזהו עשיר השמח בחלקו" - "he who is satisfied with that which is allotted to him is considered rich".

It follows that the humblest person on earth is also the richest - he always has what he needs. עשר truly is the logical reward for ענוה . Someone who has humility has no need to steal.
However this discussion of ענוה , יראת שמים and גזלה does not answer our original question. Although clearly the attitude of a גזלן is contrary to all Torah values, how is it worse than the three cardinal sins (idolatry, murder and immorality) that were committed on a daily basis by that generation?

The Avnei Nezer answers that in a certain sense theft really encompasses aspects of all three sins, one who truly believes in Hashem knows that everything he has is because He wants him to have it (ענוה ). Therefore, in a subtle sense, one who robs his fellow is like an idolater, for he be-lieves that he must take destiny into his own hands. One who forces others to give him their property and then derives enjoyment from it, is to a degree comparable to an adulterer, for obvious reasons. Theft is also related to murder, for theft of someones property may impoverish him and harm him emotionally. Thus theft was the sin that doomed the world.

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