Friday, November 04, 2016

Less Than a Penny

The goal of this blog is a penny for your thoughts. Please share.
In honor of three San Francisco birthdays this week: David, Harmon and Rebecca. Happy Birthday!

Penny 5777Did something like this ever happen to you?

We're sitting at the Shabbat table. I ask a child, "So-and-so, would you please go get the orange juice."

Before she can even get out of her chair, her sister dashes ahead of her to snatch the mitzvah.

Some kids may be happy to let someone else do their chores. But this kid is upset: "Abba asked me to do it!!"

This scenario occurs often in our home. It leads to a few questions:

1. Can you steal a mitzvah? Is that really stealing?

After you get everyone's answer, you can tell them: According to the Talmud, not only is it considered stealing, you can take someone to court for stealing your mitzvah and if you win, the court may impose hefty damages. In one such case, the plaintiff was awarded ten gold coins.

2. What's the worst kind or amount of stealing?

Meaning: Is it a dollar amount, like $1M or $1B or ? Was Madoff one of the worst because he stole so much from so many? Or is it a function of the victim - stealing from poor orphans is worse than from Warren Buffet?

3. Is goodness relative or absolute?

Meaning: Should I judge myself in comparison to other people ("Hey, I'm no Bernie Madoff:), or compared to some absolute standard (no cheating anyone ever, even slightly).

Interestingly enough, while everyone agrees that stealing from poor orphans ranks among the lowest of the low, the rabbis say there's a type of stealing that's even worse:

When a person steals in a way that he convinces himself it's not really a crime.

Like the guy who steals one grape from his neighbor's vine.

"What's the big deal? One grape is worth less than a penny, what did I do?"

Indeed, under Jewish law, he cannot be prosecuted.

But imagine others copy him, each one stealing less than a penny's worth, so the poor owner has no legal recourse.

This isn't the billion-dollar Ponzi scheme. It's cheating in a way that you'll never be caught, never be tried, never be convicted.

This is called gaming the system. Cheating on a test. Not reporting all of your income. Not paying an out-of-state parking fine. Not leaving a note when you scratch someone's car.

(Some say even cheating at golf and Pokemon Go.)

If you are guilty of any of the above, don't beat yourself up. The Talmud says most people are. It's a rare person who is 100% honest in all monetary matters.

But that's the definition of an ethical person. 
So what are we waiting for?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Do you know how many days to Channuka?
PPS - Did you find the easter egg?
When you forgive, you in no way change the past - but you sure do change the future.
Read more at:
When you forgive, you in no way change the past - but you sure do change the future.
Read more at:


Like this email? How about putting your gelt where your gab is: Like it, tweet it, or just forward it.

No comments: