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Thought for the Day: T'shuva for Stealing

I really like Neos; they just do their job effectively with no frills.  The only problem is that they only come in one color (black) and lots of people have them.  To help distinguish my new Neos, I didn't remove the tag.  It may look silly to some (alright, alright... only Minnie Pearl and I think of it as a fashion statement), but at least no one will accidentally take my Neos.

One night last week, a noted talmid chacham came over to me to inquire about my boots.  "They're Neos," I answered, feeling very full of myself that my reputation as a ba'al seichel was such that a talmid chacham would ask my advice concerning mili d'alma/worldly matters.  "And what size?", he continued.  "Extra large," I answered, happy to advise him on fit as well as fashion and utility.  "Did you bring them last night?"  I nodded, starting to wonder where this was leading.  "Are you sure those are yours?", he persisted.  Ah; now I got it, someone has taken his Neos and he just wanted to find them; fair enough.  I felt badly that I couldn't be more help as I turned my boot to show him the tag.

Fortunately, experience has taught me to the deep wisdom of "say little and do much" (Pirkei Avos 1:15), which saved me a little embarrassment as I saw that there was no tag on the boots I was wearing.  There was, however, a tag on the boots sitting on the floor right next to me and right where I had left them the previous night when I stole the boots I was wearing.  "The newer one's fit a little smaller, don't they.", he noted with a smile; "and how did you take the wrong boots?  I see you left the tag on yours."

Ok... so taking someone's property without permission is stealing.  Yes, I didn't not plan out this crime, so it was at least b'shogeig; but stealing it was.  In the third gate of Sha'arei T'shuva, Rabeinu Yona lists the categories of mitzvos in increasing level of punishment.  He does that to show how even the lightest sin is very bad news.  Stealing is at level three, lav sh'nitek l'asei/a prohibition which can be repaired by a positive miztvah.  That comes after mitvos d'rabanan (that the Torah mandates we follow) and mitvos asei (positive mitvos explicitly mandated by the Torah itself), but before lav sh'ein bo ma'aseh/prohibitions that are not transgressed by physical action (such as lashon ha'rah).

While there is no punishment of lashes for a lav sh'nitek l'asei, it does force a court call upstairs to examine the current rap sheet.  In fact, Chazal tell us that fate of S'dom and A'mora was only sealed by the sin of stealing.  Not good.  Still better than lashon harah, by the way; just saying.

So I immediately performed at least two and maybe three mitzvos asei m'd'oraisa.  First, I returned the stolen goods (Vayikra 5:23), thus repairing the lav.  Second, I did t'shuva (that's also a mitzvah d'oraisa).  Third, I requested and got m'chila; even if it's not a mitzvas asei m'd'oraisa, it's certainly a good idea.

Not a bad night's work for a reformed thief.

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