Taking something that doesn't belong to us - even if it seems we have a good excuse - is stealing. In this week's Torah portion (5:6-8) we learn about different categories of theft and their consequences. The Torah way is to be honest and not take what isn't ours.
In our story, some kids find out there's no excuse for stealing.
TAKING THE PRIZE
Steve stood in front of his friend Mark's desk at school and held a closed fist out in front of him.
"Guess what I got?" Steve gloated.
"What?" asked Mark.
"I can't guess."
"Well, see it and weep then!" said Steve, as he dropped the small, cellophane-wrapped package onto his friend's table.
"Wow! Number 62! I can't believe it! How did you get this?!"
"I ate a lot of Smackos, that's for sure! They're coming out of my ears!"
The two boys laughed together and admired the special holograph 3D sticker sparkling up at them. Smackos wasn't their favorite snack, but they definitely gave out the best prizes inside. Number 62 was just about the rarest and hardest to find sticker in the entire series.
The two boys suddenly noticed a familiar figure between them and groaned.
"What's that, number 62?" Larry, their classmate, boomed.
When they didn't respond, Larry spoke even louder.
"Ah, that's no big deal. I got about 20 of those and all the rest too. Me and my brothers."
The two boys nodded. They both knew that Larry's father was the vice-president of the company that made Smackos. And since it was Larry's father who designed the whole series, guess who got the first ones - and lots of them - as soon as they rolled off the press?
"Well, enjoy your few little stickers, guys." Larry laughed and walked off, head held high.
Sheesh, what a showoff that guy is, Steve thought to himself. Well, I'm gonna show him!
A few minutes later, a jovial Steve, having left the room for a little while, came back into the classroom smiling like the cat that ate the canary.
"Here you go, guys," he called out. "Smacko Stickers for everyone! Enjoy!"
All the kids let out a big cheer. Except one.
"Where'd you get those?" whispered Mark furiously, as soon as the noise died down.
"One sec, Mark," Steve said "Here you go Jon, which one do you want? There's plenty. Take. What'd ya say, Mark?"
"What's going on here? Where did you get all of these stickers all of the sudden?"
Steve looked around to make sure no one was listening. "I went to the coatroom and looked around for Larry's jacket. Sure enough, there were all these stickers, just hanging out of his pocket, waiting for someone to take them. So I did! There's no number 62's in there - I checked - but still it's a good haul."
"But that's stealing, man!"
"No it's not. You know - take from the rich and give to the poor. Larry has more of these than the rest of us put together. Besides he'll never miss 'em and even if he does, his daddy will just get him more. Someone has to show that guy that he's not the boss!"
Mark looked at Steve for what seemed like a long, long time, and Steve started to squirm under his gaze.
"You're just making excuses, man, and you know it. Stealing is stealing," Mark said quietly.
All of a sudden, the truth fell over Steve like a dark cloud. He'd thought he was being a hero, when all he'd been was a thief!
"You're right, I feel really bad about it, but what should I do? I already gave 'em out!" asked Steve.
Steve had an idea. It would be a big sacrifice, but he really hated stealing...
"Hey guys, listen up!" shouted Steve. "Those stickers aren't worth too much. Give 'em back, and we'll do a lottery to give out a number 62!" He waved his prized sticker in the air for all to see. "Step right up!" Steve stuck out a bag and quickly collected all the stolen stickers to return, while Mark stood by amazed.
Well, thought Steve after the lottery was over, he may have given up his precious sticker, but somehow, he felt that giving up stealing was even more precious still.
Q. How did Steve feel at first about having taken the stickers?
A. He felt it was okay since the kid he took them from had a lot.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He realized that stealing is wrong, no matter what.
Q. What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from what happened?
A. It's easy to come up with good excuses to take things that aren't ours, but the bottom line is - stealing is stealing and it's wrong.
Q. Do you think Larry, the bragging kid with all the stickers, deserved to have them stolen? Why or why not?
A. Showing off our possessions is wrong for many reasons. It hurts other's feelings and it makes them jealous. Though the way Larry acted wasn't right or responsible, it doesn't give anyone the 'right' to take his things.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Is it ethical to 'steal from the rich and give to the poor'?
A. While we can feel bad about what seem like social injustices and try to encourage people to share their wealth - stealing, even in this case, is ethically wrong.
Q. Do you think a person who truly trusts in God can steal? Why or why not?
A. No. Trust in God means trusting that He has the capacity to give us anything we need, in an honest way. Therefore we should try our best to get what we want honestly and if we don't get it we should accept that God must feel that getting it would not be for our ultimate good.