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Thought for the Day: As Bad As a Thief and Robber Are... There Is Redemption

The Torah is much kinder to r'shaim that have an understandable reason for their evil doings.  As Shlomo HaMelech tells us (Mishlei, 6; y own so free translation, as if you couldn't tell...):
ל:  לֹא-יָבוּזוּ לַגַּנָּב, כִּי יִגְנוֹב--    לְמַלֵּא נַפְשׁוֹ, כִּי יִרְעָב
לא: וְנִמְצָא, יְשַׁלֵּם שִׁבְעָתָיִם:    אֶת-כָּל-הוֹן בֵּיתוֹ יִתֵּן.
30: Do not despise the thief; he steals to fill his soul, which is hungry.
31: When found he will repay sevenfold; his entire fortune may need to give.
The G"ra explains both why the Torah does not want you to despise someone for stealing.  A person only steals for one of two reasons.  One, he does not have enough to eat; his life is at stake.  That does not excuse the stealing, but it makes it understandable.  The second reason is because he wants something that he doesn't have; he needs it.  As noted, halacha even allows burial to be delayed in case the grave diggers are hungry for chameitz on erev Pesach and they would not be able to have that chameitz if they bury the meis first.  Again, therefore, the real needs of the thief, even though they do not justify stealing, they make it understandable.

The G"ra further explains the "sevenfold" repayment.  There are seven kinds of thievery: (1) admitting the theft and returning the item (or its value); (2) not admitting the theft and having to pay double; (3) stealing a ram and slaughtering or selling it (repayment times four); (4) stealing an ox and slaughtering or selling it (repayment times five); (5) stealing an item entrusted to the thief; (6) stealing from a trustee; (7) kidnapping.

Another way of counting that G"ra uses to explain the שִׁבְעָתָיִם/"sevenfold" (a sort of doubling) is: repayment of 4 or 5 -- that's 9; add keifel (double payment as fine) -- that's 11; there are three ways to repay the principle: the item itself, the value of the item, selling one's self into indentured servitude to get the money to repay the victim -- that's another three; which all adds up to 14.

Finally, a thief might indeed need to give up his entire fortune, which actually means his portion in olam habah (the only real fortune any of us have, by they way).  If that happens, he'll need to come back as a gilgul to create another portion for himself.  Not great, but at least there is a chance.


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