Vol 17.25 - Kedoshim 1                        Spanish French Audio  Video

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(5731)"Whoever steals is as if he worships idols" ( Tal.Sem.2:11, Siyum Mas..Sanh) "As long as as evildoers are in the world, wrath is therein ..who are the wicked - thieves" - the special injunction in the prohibition of stealing and the connection to the beginning of the tractate.


Kedoshim  Removing G-d’s Fierce Anger  

Theft is compared to idolatry. G-d’s fierce anger remains as long as there are wicked  people – thieves. Idolatry also angers G-d. All other sins can be corrected by a positive  action, restoring the original situation. Theft requires more; it requires teshuvah.  This week's Torah reading contains one of the two admonitions  against stealing. As our Sages explain, in the Ten Commandments,  Thou shalt not steal means kidnapping. In this week's Torah  reading, Thou shalt not steal prohibits the theft of money.  Regarding such theft, our Sages declare that stealing is  comparable to idolatry. A thief is like an idol-worshipper. When the  Sages use such an expression, it's not just a metaphor to indicate the  seriousness and severity of the transgression. Rather, it indicates a  similarity between the essential nature of such a violation and that  of idolatry.

 Why, of all transgressions, is monetary theft akin to idolatry?  What unique feature do they share?

The question has a practical  urgency:when Moshiach comes,allforms of idolatry will be removed.  Indeed, removal of idolatry is a prerequisite for Redemption, as  we acknowledge thrice-daily in the Aleinu prayer: . . . therefore  we hope to You, L-rd our G-d, that we may speedily behold the  splendor of Your might, to banish idolatry from the earth  and false  gods will be utterly destroyed . . . Then all the inhabitants of the  world will recognize and know that every knee should bend to You  . . . and they will all take upon themselves the yoke of Your kingdom  . . . And it is said: The L-rd shall be King over the entire earth; on  that day the L-rd shall be One and His Name One.

Of course, when Moshiach comes thievery and other such  activities will also cease. In a general sense, this is understandable,  since every transgression is a violation of G-d’s Will, and thus  idolatry in miniature. In the era of Redemption, when “all eyes will  see” and “the whole world will be filled with knowledge of G-d,”  fulfilling G-d’s commandments will be the automatic and natural  thing to do. Recognizing and feeling G-d’s presence will prevent  such violations.

Idolatry is the paradigm, the beginning of all transgressions.  In a sense, all others are simply parts, greater or lesser segments  of idolatry. At this level, every moment we don’t violate a  commandment, we destroy a little piece of idolatry, and thus bring  Moshiach closer. By negating the negative, so to speak, we bring  the positive: by not stealing, we reveal G-dliness.  Still, since the Sages declared there to be a direct correspondence,  there must be a special connection between theft and idolatry.  Stealing, an act between one person and another, parallels  idolatry, an act between man and G-d. This point of comparison,  this essential aspect that theft and idolatry share, emerges from  the prohibition to steal from a condemned idolatrous city: When  an entire city is enticed into idolatry, Torah commands that the  inhabitants be killed and its contents burned. Since there might be  a temptation to save some of the valuables, the Torah warns us not  to take anything belonging to the condemned city. Even though  the death penalty applies to the inhabitants, their possessions are  not like lost objects.

Here, the prohibition against stealing is very specific: one  may not take any object from a city condemned for idolatry. One  might think that such objects are ownerless, and thus free. But  the Torah ordained differently: all the items of a condemned city  are prohibited. Since we are prohibited to take them, taking them  would be stealing. 

The Sages also provide a reason: such a theft keeps G-d’s  “fierce anger” in the world. “As long as there are wicked people in  the world, there is fierce anger in the world.” The wicked people  referred to cannot be the idolaters themselves, since they have  already been killed. Rather, the wicked are those who would take  the possessions of the idolaters, the contraband of the condemned  city. Thus, the Sages conclude, “When the wicked are removed  from the world, G-d’s fierce anger is removed from the world. Who  are these wicked? Thieves.”

We now have the following correspondence: just as idolatry  inhibits Redemption, so stealing, specifically from an idolatrous  city, inhibits the removal of G-d’s fierce anger from the world.  On the other side, just as removing idolatry is a prerequisite for  Redemption, as we acknowledge in the Aleinu prayer, so too,  removing the wicked – the thieves – is the prerequisite for removal  of G-d’s fierce anger. (Obviously, only the severest transgression  brings G-d’s “fierce anger” into the world in the first place. The  greatest sin against G-d is idolatry. Idolatry arouses G-d’s fierce  anger, but stealing keeps it in existence, preventing Redemption.)  What differentiates stealing from other sins? Generally, a sin  exists only as long as a person is sinning. For example a person  who eats non-kosher food violates the laws of kashrus only  while he is eating. When he’s not eating treif, he’s not violating  a commandment. Similarly, a person who hits someone else has  transgressed only at the moment he strikes the other person. But  so long as a stolen object has not been returned, the thief is still and  continuously stealing. Once the stolen object is returned, the thief  no longer transgresses. From then on, the individual no longer  violates the prohibition. But he has not retroactively repaired the past.  That requires teshuvah.

 In most cases, the sin has a limited lifespan, so to speak. When   one stops violating the mitzvah, the sin ceases to e
ist. Therefore,  G-d’s anger ceases when the transgression ceases. With most  transgressions, G-d’s anger depends on the action, stopping when  the sinful action stops. True, from the moment of the violation,  the individual is obligated to do teshuvah. But the sin itself, having  ceased to be, has no lingering effect on the world.  But theft, like idolatry, is different. Even when one stops acting  in a sinful manner, the sin continues to exist. A thief’s resolve to  never steal again, by itself, does not remove or correct the sin itself.  As long as he does not do teshuvah, G-d’s fierce anger remains in  the world. Similarly, one does not have to be worshipping idols  every moment of the day to provoke G-d’s fierce anger. That  idolatry exists, that one in fact worships idols, even if that isn’t  happening right now, is sufficient to arouse G-d’s fierce anger. The  effect of theft or idolatry continues even when the individual is no  longer stealing or worshipping idols. G-d’s fierce anger remains so  long as the wicked remain. And there’s only one way to remove or  transform the wicked: teshuvah.

 What is true about theft is also true in a more limited sense  about every transgression: until we do teshuvah, G-d’s displeasure  persists. With every sin comes the imperative to do teshuvah. As  important as teshuvah is in general, it becomes ultimately significant  in bringing Moshiach; as the Rambam rules, the Jewish people  will eventually do teshuvah and immediately they will be redeemed.  When considering other transgressions, a person may reason that,  since he will definitely do teshuvah anyway, it’s acceptable to delay  it. The delay may seem especially justified if one becomes involved  in other good things.

Or, one can resolve to do something good, a mitzvah. But there’s  no urgency to fulfill the resolution; we may become busy with other  interests. However, since delaying teshuvah sustains G-d’s “anger”  in the world, such conduct is improper. G-d’s displeasure stays  beyond the moment of transgression; it remains continuously;  delay affects not just the individual, but the entire world.  Our teshuvah becomes responsible for removing G-d’s displeasure  and transforming the world. Doing good benefits not only the  individual, but the entire world. And once one does teshuvah, its  effect also continues onward. Everything depends on our actions.  We, through our teshuvah and positive actions, can bring the ultimate  Redemption one moment sooner.
 (Based on Likkutei Sichos 17:205-214)



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