Torah Fax

Friday, February 13, 2004 - 21 Shevat, 5764

Torah Reading: Yitro (Exodus 18:1 - 20:23)
Candle Lighting Time: 5:09 PM
Shabbat Ends: 6:11 PM


One of the Ten Commandments is "You shall not steal."  According to our oral tradition, as recorded in the Talmud, this prohibition refers not to theft but to kidnapping which is a capital crime and is in line with the two preceding capital offenses of murder and adultery.  The prohibition against monetary theft is actually mentioned in Leviticus.

The Ten Commandments were singled out from all others in the Torah because they serve as fundamental teachings and convey far more than just their literal meaning. To be sure, the first and foremost meaning of the Biblical text here is the simple meaning that we should not commit these heinous crimes. However, since the Ten Commandments must speak to a civilized human being as well-one who would never even allow a thought to commit such crimes to enter his mind-these teachings must also possess a more subtle meaning, that is relevant to all.

For example, the crime of murder is one where we create a separation between the body and soul of the victim.  Thus the Talmud states that by embarrassing someone in public one is guilty of the crime of bloodshed. The rationale behind this is that embarrassing someone indicates that one does not respect his or her human dignity. The one who embarrasses another has separated the person from his honor and dignity. One can take this a step further. One can be guilty of "murder" anytime they demonstrate a sense of disregard for, and a disconnect from, their spiritual and G‑dly self. Denying the existence of the soul or denigrating it is a subtle form of bloodshed.

Along this line of reasoning, the prohibition of adultery can refer to one who does acknowledge the existence of the soul and spiritual dimension of life. Their problem is that they pledge allegiance to multiple influences in their life. In addition to their professed belief in G‑d, they will also show loyalty to other ism's and belief systems that are not consistent with our belief in G‑d.

By way of illustration: while there is certainly much value in the arts and sciences, but that is because they are part of G‑d's universe, not because they have value independent of their Creator. Indeed, our Sages at the very end of Ethics of the Fathers declare " All that G‑d created, He created for His glory." If one uses science and literature to see the presence of G‑d and glorify Him, then these disciplines do not represent a compromise of one's loyalty. However, when one separates these areas of knowledge from the oneness of G‑d, then, in a subtle sense, one has committed adultery, by having multiple loyalties.

There is a third level where one does not reject the existence of a spiritual dimension and does not even share his loyalty with other influences. The "problem" here is that the person has "kidnapped" and "sold" his spiritual identity. This refers to the person who appreciates all too well the existence and benefits of spirituality, however, he utilizes its life-enhancing capacity to extract some profit and gain in an area that is inconsistent with that spirituality.

For example: among the features of a G‑dly awareness is that it creates a sense of excitement, enthusiasm and inspiration. A materialistic existence, by contrast, is dull and devoid of feeling. The body-without the involvement of the soul-cannot feel joy and happiness. Depression is the body and animal nature eclipsing the natural zest for life that comes from the soul.

To kidnap and sell one's spirituality is to get excited about some non-G‑dly enterprise. When one invests their soul in some mundane pursuit, rather than get excited about Torah and Mitzvot, while not destroying their spiritual nature or compromising it, they transfer it to another domain. 

To be sure, there is nothing inherently wrong with many of these activities. It is the investment of one's soul-energy into these areas instead of the areas for which it was intended that is a subtle way of violating the commandment not to kidnap and sell. Don't divert your soul from its mission and don't try to derive benefit from it for the wrong endeavor.

This can be compared to a person who is given a luxury car for business purposes so that they can get to their place of work more quickly, enjoyably and with more dignity. Instead, this individual uses the car for leisure and takes the crowded subway or bus to work. Similarly, G‑d gave us the soul and all its faculties for His business of making this world into a G‑dly and holy world. To the extent that we use our business and our leisure activities for that goal, one has a right, nay an obligation to enjoy life and be filled with a zest for life. However, to take the excitement of the soul and use it for other purposes while "taking the subway" to achieve our spiritual goals is a subtle way of violating this eighth commandment.
Unfortunately, one of the casualties of exile life is that we are not always aware of our soul's mission, which can lead to its diversion into other areas. One of the characteristics of the Messianic Age is that our soul and all of its powers will be directed in the right place - a place that will bring life, joy and fulfillment to all of our endeavors.

Moshiach Matters

What kind of changes will occur when Moshiach comes? Since Moshiach encapsulates only good, joy and Simcah, it is clear that any change that will brought about my Moshiach in the world will only be positive and good. Whoever is suffering, will see and end to that suffering; whoever is successful will see an even greater increase in that success. (From

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