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Dignity of the Thief!

Friday, 4 February, 2022 - 3:49 pm

Earlier this week, a dear friend of mine, who is a respected physician, was the recipient of derogatory accusations and name-calling from a few of his childhood friends. His crime? stating an opinion that differed from theirs. It was baffling. Later in the week we hosted Governor and First Lady Gianforte at the Chabad Center for a candle lighting ceremony in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In our meeting we spoke about educating our youth to respect all people, even those with whom we disagree. I told him how Chavie and I strive to raise our children to share their opinions with confidence but to refrain from berating or defaming someone else due their opposing view.

In this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, we read about thievery. We are taught that if one steals someone’s ox or lamb and slaughters or sells it, the perpetrator must compensate the theft victim with more than the usual fine of “paying double”. With an ox the fine is fivefold the value of the ox, and with a lamb it’s four times the lamb’s value. Why the distinction? Says the Midrash that when one steals a lamb, they carry it on their back and it’s humiliating for them to Shlepp through town like that, so we deduct part of the fine in recognition of the thief’s humiliation.

We are concerned with the dignity of a thief.

Human beings shouldn’t agree on everything. The world would be boring and bland if we all looked, thought, spoke and acted exactly the same. G-d didn’t intend for us to see eye to eye on all issues. He gave us a Torah, guided our behavior and told us to respect all of His creations. In Judaism, debating issues is key, vital to our inner growth, but canceling others, hating our fellow, disavowing loved ones, over disagreements, is as un-Jewish as eating pork. Our Montana community is made up of Jews that are all over the map in their thinking and that’s what makes it a bright rainbow of Jewish life, and hearing so many unique opinions make me a better rabbi.

Dignity, dignity, dignity!

May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Mashiach speedily. May G-d protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

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