The Holy Thief

Friday, 14 February, 2020 - 3:41 am

 A childless couple came to the Rebbe – I don’t know which Rebbe – and asked for a bracha that they would have children. The Rebbe refused to bless them. They came again and again and the Rebbe wouldn’t relent. “Why, Rebbe, why?”

“Listen,” said the Rebbe, “I see with my spiritual powers that if you will have a son he will be a thief. I don’t want to bless you with a child who is a thief.” The future mother shed tears and pleaded: “Bless me, Rebbe. I promise you I will love the child even if he will be a thief. Bless me!”

The Rebbe blessed, the child was born and grew up to be a thief. Already from age four he was emptying pockets and drawers. When he turned twelve, his parents couldn’t stand the shame and the complaints of the townspeople anymore. He stole from everyone, from every place, and everyone suspected him. He knew how to steal better than anyone else before him. They returned to the Rebbe: “Rebbe, we can’t take it anymore. True, we promised we would accept him as he is, but this is getting unbearable.” “Leave your tachshit (wayward child) with me and returned to your home,” said the Rebbe.

A few days passed, and the Rebbe called in the child and said: “Listen, there is an important family that has lost all its money. They are embarrassed to tell others of their difficult situation. They are afraid that it will damage their good name and the matches of their children. I have to give them money without their knowing and without anyone else knowing either. And here’s where you come into the picture. You have the right talents for this task.”

The boy’s eyes lit up – there is none better than him! He sneaked into the family’s house, put the money in the right drawer and left without leaving any tracks. The Rebbe, on his part, kept giving him tasks, and actually turned him, step by step, from a bad thief into a good thief. And the main point was that the child saw that he could use his special nature for the good, for positive things, to do good deeds and chessed.

In this week’s parsha Yitro comes to the desert and says, “Blessed is Hashem.” It says in the Zohar that the Torah wasn’t given until Yitro came and said “Baruch Hashem.” Why did they wait for Yitro? What did Yitro bring that others didn’t?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that in order for the Torah to act on the whole world, both the good and the bad, for and against, it was necessary that a person who was the priest of Midian should come – someone who had worshipped every type of false god and was deeply familiar with all of them. Then he comes and says: “I have seen everything. I have gotten to know them all, and I am coming to you this day and telling you: “Blessed is Hashem of all the gods.”

Because the height of influence is when one sees the good in the bad, when one is able to select the good from the bad, and make it holy.

The priest of Midian did it his way. The Rebbe in the story did it with the boy who was a thief.

That is the novelty of the Giving of the Torah. This is also the power we were given together with the Torah. And when we see something bad and negative, we must remember that within it there has to be some good that is worthwhile extricating and elevating.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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