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Money

By Rabbi Jonathan Tawil

There is a joke told about a thief who decided to rob a house one night. He broke in stealthily and after much effort found some expensive jewellery which he managed to pack into his bag. Just then he heard a voice, “Yossi is watching you, Yossi is watching you!”

The thief froze scared out of his mind. He pointed his flashlight into the direction he heard the voice and saw a parrot.

“Yossi is watching you, Yossi is watching you!” The thief, with a relief started to laugh and asked the parrot “So who are you?” The Parrot responded “Moshe Moshe”.

“And who’s the fool that named you Moshe anyway?” asked the thief.

“The same fool that named the Rottweiler standing behind you Yossi!”

Times are tough across the globe and theft has increased worldwide. What drives a thief’s lust? Why does he take the risk? How does the Torah view a thief and what is his punishment?

The Kohelet Rabah (1:13) states Ein Haadam Niftar Min Haolam Vechetsi Ta’avato Biyado – No one in this world achieves even half of that which he desires before passing away. Yesh Beyado Maneh Taavato Matayim – If he has 100 Maneh (currency), he wants 200 Maneh. We never seem to be happy with what we achieve.

Rabbi Yonatan Eibshitz z’l notes, that on closer inspection the (above mentioned) sayings about human nature seem to have a percentage point contradiction between them.

One aphorism states, “No person dies having fulfilled half of his desires.”

The other claims, “If you have 100 you want 200.”

One implies that a person may approach but never reaches 50% of his or her ambitions. The second places the dividing point at exactly 50% implying you can achieve exactly half. So which is it? R Eibshitz reconciles the two with a fascinating insight into our nature.

King Solomon wrote, “Like a bird that strays from her nest so is a man that wanders from his place” (Mishlei 27:8). To the baby bird planted securely in her nest, the forest floor is a lure. Similarly the big city calls to the country youth. With one step too many the little fellow is out there. Once down on the ground though, the proportions of the lurking dangers swell back to size. Suddenly, that defenceless creature with underdeveloped wings is in constant risk of being swallowed whole. Eventually she longs for the nurturing nest.

R Eibshitz explains that people’s lusts take on the same fate and in the above case; “The half that he doesn’t have is more-dear to him than the half that he does have.”

Thus even though he has achieved 50% of his ambition, nevertheless in his eyes it is less then 50%. Now that he has achieved it, he turns to the 50% he has not achieved and gives greater value to that. A person who constantly pursues wealth will never truly feel fulfilled. Even when achieving his desired wealth, the lure for more will always provide a greater pull.

Our Parasha teaches that a thief who is caught must pay double the amount he has stolen. The Torah seems adamant to stamp out this vile sin, but why punish him by enforcing double payment?

The Kli Yakar (21:12) explains that the thief personifies lust. He is always chasing after money and wealth. He wasn’t satisfied with what he had, he craved to double his money – therefore as a punishment (Mida Kneged Mida – like for like) he is obliged to pay double.

This is also hinted via the word used for money – Mamon. The word Mamon is spelt with the letters MemVav, Nun. When you spell these letters out they all begin and end with the same letter.

Thus one who steels Mamon (made up of double letters and implying never ending lust,) pays double.

In the times of Noach when Hashem decided to destroy the world, one of the determining factors was their rampant theft. The epicentre of this sin lies in the haughtiness of the individual, placing his interest and lust above that of society.

Money might make the world go around, but we shouldn’t make it the focus of our world.

Shabbat Shalom

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