Thursday, July 3, 2008

Teshuvah for Theft

Chazal teach that sins between a man and his friend are judged more stringently than those between man and Hashem; Yechezkel HaNavi even caps his litany of the twenty-four sins that brought about the churban with theft, as if to say that it is the ultimate act of trespass. (Yechezkel 22:13) The Mekor Chaim, zt”l, extrapolates from this that even if one is exemplary in all of his dealings with Hashem and his fellow man, theft renders him invalid. He is distant from Hashem until he makes restitution and changes his ways.
When the Chofetz Chaim, zt”l, was making his arrangements for his anticipated move to Eretz Yisrael toward the end of his life, he bequeathed his personal well to the public of Radin.
When asked why he did this, the gadol explained, “For years we had a grocery store here in Radin. Chazal write in Kiddushin that being a grocer is an occupation for thieves since it is all to easy to inadvertently (or intentionally, ח"ו) err in weighing out goods or making change for purchases. But how can one compensate the public when one doesn’t even know what mistakes were made or who lost by them?”
He continued, “Chazal taught that one who has stolen from the public should make a public restitution. That is why I am leaving my well to be used by all the inhabitants of Radin.”
Later on, all the wells in Radin froze over during a particularly hard frost—all except for the one that had belonged to the Chofetz Chaim. When asked about this unusual occurrence, the gadol was clearly pleased. “Wonderful! Now all those I stole from will certainly come and get restitution from my well!”

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