There is Stealing and There is Stealing by Rabbi Steven Finkelstein


One could argue that every time a person sins against his fellow man, he sins against Hashem as well. In this week’s Parashah, the Torah goes out of its way to highlight a specific sin that not only  requires  restitution to the victim but also obligates the perpetrator  to make up for the  trespass or offense that he has caused to Hashem. The Torah writes, "Dabeir El Bnei Yisrael Ish O Ishah Ki Ya'asu MiKol Chatot HaAdam LiM’ol Ma'al BaShem, VeAshmah HaNefesh HaHi VeHitvadu Et Chatatam  Asher Asu VeHeishiv Et Ashamo BeRosho VaChamishito Yoseif Alav, VeNatan LaAsher Asham Lo," "Say to Bnei Yisrael: A man or woman who commits any of man’s sins by committing a trespass against Hashem, that person shall become guilty and he shall confess his sin that he committed; he shall make restitution for his guilt in its principle amount, and add a fifth to the amount and give it to the one to whom he is guilty" (BeMidbar 5:6-7).

It is important to note that while the Torah presents the scenario to us, it omits one important detail: We are not informed what sin is being referred to. In his commentary, the Seforno explains that the Pasuk must be referring to the sin of “Gezel HaGeir, stealing from a convert.

 The Seforno explains that if one robs a convert, he profanes the name of his God in the eyes of the convert who came to find protection under Hashem. Therefore, he is called one who trespasses against the sacred and is required to bring a guilt offering, as is the law regarding all who trespass against Hashem.

The Seforno is sharing with us a tragic situation. Picture the scene:  An individual from outside of the Jewish faith is impressed by the truth of the Torah. He is inspired by the beauty of the Mitzvot and the Jewish way of life. He is uplifted by the values of the Jewish community. Based on these feelings, he decides to convert to Judaism. A short while after his conversion, while he is still basking in the excitement and enthusiasm for Judaism, he is the victim of robbery. To make matters worse, the robber is a Jew. Imagine the shock and the disillusionment that he would feel. In effect, this Jewish thief has stolen more than money or an object. He has stolen the convert's whole image of how pure and beautiful the Torah way of life is. The thief has permanently tarnished the Geir's perception of Hashem. It is for this reason that the sin of Gezel HaGeir is viewed as a direct attack on Hashem.

While stealing from a convert is a unique and hopefully rare situation, the Seforno is highlighting for us the serious consequences of everything that a Jew does. How will our attitudes, behaviors, and actions impact the people around us?  Will it lead to the glorification of Hashem, the Torah, and Judaism ? Or will it, Chas VeShalom, diminish them?

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