Monday, July 6, 2009

Common Thievery

As is well known, the great chassidic masters would try and find methods to help others—especially simple people—improve. They would carefully take the measure of each simple friend and work out what to say and when to enable them to realize where they were wrong and change. During the time when Rav Yitzchak of Vorki, zt”l, worked for Tamar’l of Warsaw, there was a simple coworker in whom he would confide.
One day Rav Yitzchak said, “You know, it is permitted to steal a little bit from the ba’al habayis. I am careful to take a little.”
The simple man grew very animated, “I, too, pilfer from the boss…” He began to innumerate various times when he had robbed their employer.
Rav Yitzchak of Vorki gazed at this man with a mixture of pity and horror and cried, “Oy vey! Is that what you thought I meant? How is it possible for someone to act in such a wanton manner? One who acts in such a way has violated some very serious Torah prohibitions. He must ask forgiveness and repay every penny.
He continued, “I was talking about stealing time to learn. This is surely permitted, since our boss is a G-d-fearing person who loves Torah and will not lose if we grab a little Torah whenever we can.”
These strong words spoken from a heart, filled with love and yiras shamayim, caused his simple coworker to become a ba’al teshuvah!
The Pele Yo’eitz, zt”l, discussed some people’s strange tendency to rationalize stealing from their employers, customers, or anyone else. “They falsely claim that nowadays times are so hard that if one does not steal he will not be able to provide even the simplest fare for his family. In this manner stealing seems to them as if it is permitted and no one even regrets these serious Torah violations… It is well known that the very first question Hashem asks after a person leaves this world is: ‘Did you do business in good faith?”


Neil Harris said...

Very important lesson (as I read it during my LUNCH break at work).

Pragmatician said...

Good story, although I'm not sure it is ok to stop working to lean without explicit permission.

Micha Golshevsky said...

Neil: There is nothing like a good ma'aseh to inspire.
(Perhaps you also meant to imply what Pragmatician wrote explicitly. If so, see my comment below.)

Micha Golshevsky said...

Pragmatician: You raise an excellent point. But in such matters it depends on the local custom and on the temperament of their boss.
Of course if he was permitted to learn the Vorkever was not literally stealing at all.
But I think you may have missed something here.
I believe that the Vorkover knew his fellow employee was stealing and used this misleading term on purpose as a tactic, which worked.
Interestingly,Rebbe Nachman and the Gra both point out that the word "kevias itim," can also mean to steal time, since one must steal time to learn from his yetzer hara--and his busy schedule.