Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Crime and Punishment

By Rabbi Daniel Travis

The world was corrupt in front of God and the land was filled with crime. (Bereshith 6:11)

Although the generation of the flood committed numerous sins, the primary “crime” for which they were eradicated was that of theft.(1) Why is this transgression singled out as the reason for the punishment? Faith in God is a foundation of the Torah, and someone who steals shows complete lack of trust in God.(2) Therefore, stealing is like transgressing the entire Torah.(3)

The word “stealing” conjures up a picture of a mugger holding someone at gunpoint. Although most people are not involved with such theft, the majority of individuals nonetheless transgress the laws prohibiting theft. (4) Therefore, when the Torah prohibits stealing money, it is written in the plural, to show that everyone must take special precautions to guard themselves from this particular transgression.(5) This is in contrast to the Ten Commandments, in which the prohibition against stealing people (kidnapping) is written in the singular, for very few people reach such a level of corruption.(6)

The Torah prohibition of theft applies regardless whether one steals from a Jew or non-Jew.(7) If stealing would lead to a desecration of God’s name, then stealing from a non-Jew is viewed as more serious an offense than stealing from a Jew.(8) Consequently, the punishment for doing so is very severe, and money accrued via such means is quickly lost. In one instance an individual who stole from a non-Jew was punished through the death of his children. Since all of his children died immediately after they married, he lost the stolen money as well, for all the money he had given to each child was left with the family of that child’s spouse.(9)


1. Sanhedrin 108a as cited by Rashi.

2. Rabbeinu Bachyeh, beginning of Parshas Beshalach.

3. Kad Hakemach of Rabbeinu Bachyeh (Gezel).

4. Bava Bathra 165a.

5. Vayikra 19:11.

6. Vilna Gaon, Sefer HaLikutim 2:20b.

7. See Rambam, Laws of Theft (gezeilah) 1:1; Smag, Second Negative Commandment; Shulchan Aruch 348:2; Maharshal, Yam Shel Shlomo, Bava Kama 10:20; Aruch HaShulchan, Choshen Mishpat 348:2.

8. Tosefta Bava Kama 10:8.

9. Sefer Chasidim 661.


Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org


 






ARTICLES ON NOACH:

View Complete List

In Man's Diminished Image
Rabbi Label Lam - 5770

Unity With Caution
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5766

Rabbi Frand on Parshas Noach
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5770

ArtScroll

The Sign of the Olive
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5767

Noah's Spiritual Leadership
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5771

Generation to Generation
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5759

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Positive Speech Builds a Brighter World
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5762

What Goes Around Comes Around
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5760

Beyond Youth
Rabbi Label Lam - 5764

> Making It Perfect
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5763

Wine and Window Washers
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5770

Don't Shout at Me!
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5760

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Noach - A 'Standard' Tzaddik
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5764

Sins Committed In Private Ultimately Lead To a Violent Society
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5765

Noach's Lessons for Our Day
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5762

Taking the Initiative
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5772



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information