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STEALING FIRST

by Raphael Hirsch    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"G-d said to Noah, 'The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with robbery through them. . ." (Genesis 6:13).

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"G-d said to Noah, 'The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with robbery through them. . ." (Genesis 6:13).

Rashi, the fundamental Torah commentator, states, based on the above verse, that it was because of the sin of robbery that the decree to perish by the flood was sealed. We are told by our sages that the severe corruption of the generation of Noah encompassed many sins. What was so severe about robbery that it sealed the fate of Noah's generation?

The Yalkut Gershoni, a commentary on the Torah, gives two possible answers to this question. The Midrash teaches us that Hashem does not exact justice initially on a person's body - that is to say that if a person sins before Hashem and is worthy of punishment, Hashem, in his effort to rebuke the sinner, will not cause the sinner physical harm. Rather, He will cause him monetary loss in the hope that the person will accept the message and change his ways.

In the generation of Noah, theft was so prevalent that it reached the point that nothing in anyone's possession actually belonged to him since everything was stolen goods. Therefore, it was impossible for Hashem to cause them loss through their own possessions, and He had to punish them physically. Hence, their verdict was sealed due to their theft.

The second reason given by the Yalkut Gershoni as to why their fate was sealed so harshly for the specific sin of robbery is that for all the other Noahide laws, there was an excuse for their lack of adherence to them. They mistakenly thought they were commanded to Adam, and not for subsequent generations. However, with theft it was obvious that it could not have been exclusively for Adam. Since at the time Hashem commanded Adam to follow these laws, there were no other inhabitants on earth, making it impossible to steal from another person. Obviously, Hashem was giving Adam this commandment for his future descendants when thievery would actually be a possibility. Hence, their verdict was sealed because of the sin of robbery.

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Raphael Hirsch, an alumnus of Yeshiva Atlanta, writes from Atlanta.

You are invited to read more Parshat Noach articles.

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