In Parshat Mishpatim, we learn about the punishment of a thief. If somebody steals a sheep or a ox and sells it, he must pay back the value of the animal four times if a ox and five times if a sheep.
Rashi asks a famous question. Why would the ox cost extra to pay back? What is the difference between that and a ox? He answers that when somebody steals a ox, he leads it away, but if he steals a sheep, he must carry it away, a very embarrassing position for him. Because of this embarrassment factor, the sheep thief must pay less. This just shows how important a person’s emotions are to Hashem that He would be willing to change actual payment on account of it.
However, there is one last question that lingers. What is so special about a sheep and a cow? Why are they the only two animals that require such a heavy fine? R’ Shimon Ben Gamliel answers that not only are feelings important to Hashem but so is hard, honest work. When somebody steals an ox or a sheep, he steals someone’s livelihood. For this reason, Hashem punishes someone so harshly for such a theft.
Such a simple Mitzvah can teach an important lesson. Two traits that Hashem values very much are hard honest work and basic respect.