My 9th grade student came into class shaking with anger. She had misplaced her purse; it had been found and returned. And she just found out her credit card was stolen and most of her savings were wiped out.
A few minutes later we began our lesson introducing Shavuot–the upcoming holiday (Saturday night, Sunday and Monday) celebrating the giving of the Torah/Ten Commandments. “Let’s list as many of the 10 Commandments as we can remember,” I began.
Her loss was more than the money. Her sense of the world as being a safe place was crumbling. She felt violated. Her trust in others was being challenged.
There are many layers of theft, from taking what doesn’t belong to us to not returning someone’s greeting. Some seem serious, others less so. But if the laws of the Torah are to refine our character, we need to take seriously all manifestations of stealing.
Including stealing others’ time by showing up late; stealing our teacher’s impression by submitting an essay written by a more gifted friend; stealing the affection of friends while gossiping about them later; stealing from our employer by showing up late to work; stealing from a friend by forgetting to return the borrowed item; stealing music by downloading without paying.
Engaging in these acts of stealing may not leave people shaken, but the quality of our character is reflected by these seemingly insignificant acts.
The Ten Commandments (and the other 603 in the Torah) will not be taken seriously by those who will rob banks or steal credit cards.
The question that challenges us this holiday season is: will we take them seriously?
-Rabbi David Vorspan, Rabbi-in-Residence