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Thought for the Day: Integrity and Brachos

A g'vir once noted to the Chafeitz Chaim that he was disturbed by frum Jews who were dishonest in business and lacking in derech eretz (ie, rude).  "And what about frum Jews who violate Shabbos and don't keep kosher?", responded the saintly Chafeitz Chaim.  "If they don't keep Shabbos and kashrus, then they aren't frum!", exclaimed the g'vir.  "Neither are Jews who cheat in business and are rude."

Of course the Chafeitz Chaim was teaching that frum Jews need to be sure they work on their bein adam l'chaveiro (interpersonal) as much as their bein adam lmakom (between man and HaShem) obligations.  But he was saying something even more profound: if a Jew (who identifies himself as believing in G-d) is not careful about his bein adam l'makom obligations, then he is also not someone you can trust in business either.  Let's make that more concrete.

If someone is not careful about brachos, then at least one of the following statements is false:
  1. I believe in G-d.
  2. I believe stealing is wrong.
  3. I am an honest person.
Let's start from the top.  If you believe in G-d, then you believe He created the world; which means that He owns everything in the universe.  As we say in sh'mone esrei, "konei hakol"; translated as "Creator of all", but literally, "the one who has acquired all".  Chazal note there are two p'sukim in ti'hillim that seem to contradict each other.  One the one hand, "LaShem ha'aretz u'm'lo'a" -- HaShem owns the world and all in it.  On the the other, "ha'shamayim shamayim l'HaShem, v'ha'aretz noson livnei adam" -- The heavens belong to HaShem, and He has given the earth to man.  R' Leivi answers the contradiction, one is before the bracha, the other is after the bracha.

In other words, if you eat without a bracha then you are stealing from HaShem.  So either:
  • you don't believe in G-d, so the food is all ownerless and it's every man for himself.
  • you don't mind stealing, just don't like stealing from someone who might steal from you
  • you are dishonest
Not making any value judgements, just noting the facts.

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