The Punishment For Theft
By Rabbi Daniel Travis
All flesh that walked the earth perished. (Bereshith 7:21)
In some cases, if someone died owing money to others, whether because he
had stolen or for other reasons, his soul must return to this world.(1)
However, he will not return to the world as a human being, but as a horse,
and he will have to toil for years before he will be pardoned for the
money he owes.(2)
Rav Meir of Premishlan once stayed at the home of a man who owned many
horses. Rav Meir asked his host if he would be willing to sell him one of
the horses. The host explained that he could not sell the specific horse
Rav Meir had chosen for it was his finest horse. A short while later, Rav
Meir asked his host if he had any debtors’ notes. The host showed Rav Meir
his collection of notes, and when Rav Meir looked through them, he picked
out one and inquired about it. The host told him that the man who signed
that note as a debtor had passed away, and there was no one from whom to
collect the money. That being the case, Rav Meir asked if he could keep
the note, and his host agreed. Rav Meir then ripped the note to pieces.
Immediately, one of the servants was heard shouting that the master’s
finest horse had died suddenly, just at that moment. The host was shaken
by this bizarre scenario, and asked Rav Meir the meaning of all that had
transpired. Rav Meir explained that the individual whose note he had
destroyed had been sent back to the world in the form of a horse in order
to compensate the host for the money he had never repaid him. When the
host gave Rav Meir the note, the debt was effectively cancelled, and the
soul of this individual was freed to leave this world and enter the World
to Come in peace.(3)
1. Vilna Gaon, Commentary on Mishlei 14:25.
2. Chofetz Chaim, Sefath Tamim, Ch. 4.
3. Beith Yisrael Ch. 8 p. 117.
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org