Dishonesty Can Carry a Heavy Price

Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – October 7, 2010

In the beginning of the Torah section of Noach (Bereshit 6:13), we read, “And G-d said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with robbery through them; and behold, I am about to destroy them from the earth’”.  Rashi, as per the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 108a, comments that this verse teaches us that “their sentence was not sealed except on account of robbery”.

Ma’ayana Shel Torah cites the Melo HaOmer who wonders about the aforementioned: Our Sages say, “The Merciful One does not strike the souls initially” (Vayikra Rabba 17).  First, G-d punishes someone by striking at his possessions, and only if that does not bring results, will He strike at his very soul.  If so, why, in the case of the generation of the flood, did G-d immediately decide to extinguish the human race?

The truth, though, is that possessions can only serve to save their owner if they were acquired fairly, in which case they are truly his.  If, however, they were not honestly and fairly acquired, then they do not rightfully belong to him and cannot be treated as his.  Therefore, these possessions cannot save him.

Consequently, were it not for the sin of robbery that the generation of the flood were all engaged in, they would not have been immediately punished with extinction.  They would have, rather, been punished first by loss of possessions.  However, since their possessions were all stolen, their decree was sealed immediately with “I am about to destroy them from the earth”.

The saying goes “crime does not pay”.  In this case, we see, indeed, that dishonesty can carry a heavy price.