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Thursday, 9 May, 2019 - 5:43 pm

“Lo Tignovu” – Do not steal, is one of the many Mitzvot in this week’s Parsha, Kedoshim.  There are many forms of stealing, several enumerated in the Torah.  Brazen robbery, burglary in secret, cheating in business or withholding payment that is due.  Stealing is forbidden in any form, from any person on earth.  One of the types of stealing enumerated in the Torah is using inaccurate weights and measures.  Not only are we forbidden from using them, we are not allowed to make, purchase or own them.  If a weight or measure has been damaged in any way and is not accurate, we must destroy it.  It is very interesting that the Torah connects this particular Mitzvah, owning inaccurate weights and measures, with the Exodus from Egypt.  “You shall have honest scales, weights and measures, I am Hashem your G-d who took you out of Egypt.”  (Vayikra 19:36)   There is a lot of discussion by the Sages as to why the Torah invokes the Exodus relating to this particular Mitzvah.  Rambam says that one who denies this Mitzvah is acting as if he or she denies the Exodus, which was the beginning of all our commandments.  Why this Mitzvah in particular?  What about stealing in general, and all the other Mitzvot, are they not connected to the beginning of all the commandments?

The Rebbe gives a beautiful insight into this, and I will just paraphrase a small synopsis.  As I mentioned, this Mitzvah is not just about using inaccurate weights, but also just having them, and it is considered a serious sin.  The reason for this is that for an honest person to go out and  steal is not a common thing.  We know that what is not ours is not for us to take, and it is something that a person who wants to follow the laws of Torah, living ethically and morally, would never consider.  But we all have a constant struggle with our negative drives, known as the “Yetser Hara” –evil inclination, that is constantly seeking devious ways to lead us down the wrong path.  This is the nature that Hashem created us with, in order for us to willingly choose the right path, and for our correct choices to be the result of our own work, not given to us as a free gift.  This Yetser Hara is a part of us, and is insidious.  We know that an honest person will not be persuaded to steal, so instead the process begins with something innocuous like having a weight or measure that is slightly off.  From having it comes using it, and as that becomes a habit, from there the slippery slope could end in outright stealing. 

So the prohibition of having inaccurate weights and measures is to protect us not only from acting negatively, but also from entertaining the possibility of doing so.  Negative potential can lead to negative action, so we must protect ourselves at the very beginning from any negative trait.  This is the message of the connection to the Exodus, the beginning of all commandments.  Rambam is explaining that we need to protect ourselves at the very beginning - to constantly monitor our feelings to ensure that we don’t adopt negative traits that may lead us to disrespect another person or their property.

The name of the Parsha is “Kedoshim” – be holy, and this Mitzvah is part of this holiness.  Holiness is not only what happens in the Synagogue, the Yeshiva or on Shabbat.  True holiness means to behave in our daily activities with honesty and integrity, and even more than that, to shy away from anything that may have the slightest hint of dishonesty.  When all our activities are permeated with honesty and holiness, Hashem blesses our efforts with honest income and honest abundance, so that we can continue to bring the light of honesty and holiness to the world.

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