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Overcoming the Temptation to Steal

I work in a small clothing store. Recently, I’ve become very tempted to steal a little of the merchandise (small items, ones without anti-theft tags). I know I could get away with it because there is no security camera and I’m often working by myself. So far I haven’t acted on my impulses, but I can’t get the thought out of my mind. What should I do?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

I'm sorry for your difficult challenge. In general we are obligated to keep ourselves away from tempting situations. If you have a real concern that you won't be able to control yourself, then you would have to go as far as quitting that job.

However, I am sure it will not come to that. Here are a few thoughts you can keep in mind which will hopefully help you increase your willpower. First of all, we believe with perfect faith that God is watching us at all times. There is thus no such thing as an act we can get away with – as if no one is watching us. God is there with us all the time. In general, of course, this is a wonderful, heartwarming feeling – that God cares for us, looks after us, and never forsakes us – no matter how hard it sometimes is to see Him in our lives. At the same time, however, this also teaches us that God knows full well when we are not behaving as we should.

If you review this thought in your mind, you will hopefully not even experience the temptation to steal – just as little as you’d feel it if you knew your boss were watching you right then. Your “Boss” really is watching you at the very moment you want to steal. (In fact, He's up there rooting for you at that very moment that you overcome your challenge.)

The second issue is that the Talmud states that on Rosh Hashanah of every year God decrees exactly how much every person will earn in the coming year (Beitzah 16a). There is no way we can change that total (except perhaps by praying), certainly not by stealing. If you would really take something you should not, I guarantee you that something else will go wrong which will cost you extra money – your car, your roof, your fridge will require repair work. (Such matters also involve the headache of going without a fridge or car, let alone the monetary cost.) As we all know, God has no shortage of ways of taking money from us which we do not deserve. Thus, there is just no room for a temptation to steal. We’ll end up with the same bottom line no matter what we do (so long as we put in our honest efforts). It’s just a matter of how honestly we will earn it.

Hopefully these thoughts will help strengthen your resolve and this issue will no longer challenge you.

May God give you the strength to overcome all your challenges in life.

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