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Home :: Seven Laws :: Sixth Law is No Robbery

Sixth Law is No Robbery

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The prohibition is much more difficult and deeper than it may seem at first sight. The robber is considered to be both the one who took away with force and the one who stole possession and the one who abducted a person and the one who delays the salary of a hired worker etc. Trivia that lead deep down to the ocean of details refer to definition of robbery, which is, according to Tora, any action that results in causing damage to the other part even at the rate of fewer than the smallest coin value. With this, the pure robbery is going to be such ordinary actions like being late for work (if not to stay there for proper time after the working day is over), driving in public transport without having a ticket (even for one stop distance), using working-materials for personal purposes without permission of authorities and the like.

Well, according to Biblical rules, a human is considered to be a robber even if he stole at the rate of fewer than the value of Pruta (the smallest coin of ancient times, valuable 25 mg of silver approximately - Author's note). Property's theft also includes a "living" property, that is cattle, bird etc. It's prohibited to take something away from somebody even in jest or to tease him. It's prohibited to steal even with intention to later return the stolen item. And it's also prohibited to simply take without permission any thing that doesn't belong to you. But why does No Robbery Law include so numerous varieties and punishes so severe for insignificant details, on the face of it?

The answer is Omnipotent wanted us to realize all severity He treats the robbery with. Reading the numerous prohibitions Tora puts on this crime, we're imbued with the proper understanding how vile this sin is to G-d. Coz even despite generation of flood was systematically breaking such basic Laws as No Idolatry, No Lechery and No Bloodshed, it's reliably known that Hashem was ready to display long-patience and restraint regarding them even further, if not one more crime of theirs - robbery. And as in case of generation of flood as both today, it is exactly the crime of robbery, not idolatry, bloodshed or lechery, that always served and serves final push when passing sentence about the guilt of the single country or the entire generation. It happens like that coz robbery undermines the foundation of any civilization. And even common sense asserts one may not steal property of another person. Each time Hashem administers justice over the human who's guilty in various crimes, the hardest accusation is always No Robbery Law infringement.

Now we shall consider each of the general peculiarities of the Law separately (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 57a):

"Noah Descendant is to be sentenced to the death penalty for No Robbery infringement. And here is teaching about No Robbery Law: the one who breaks it is the thief, and the robber, and the one who abducts a pretty woman (that is the one who abducts another's wife during war, he is considered to be a robber - RASHI's comment) and the like (that is the actions which can't be called pure robbery, but which resemble it - RASHI's comment)."

First of all, there's a need to define a difference between "thief" and "robber" terms, coz Tora builds clear delimitation between them and uses them in different meanings. The first one commits a theft secretly, the second one - in broad daylight. The thief is considered to be the worst one out of two, coz by his hidden action he shows he's only afraid of people and is not afraid of all-seeing eye of Omnipotent. That's why the Law itself is called No Robbery but not No Theft, meaning that as far as robbery is prohibited while it's considered to be less hard infringement upon the Law, all the more theft is prohibited.

Besides, Tora equates four kinds of liar to the thief:

- a person who makes the other one accept the invitation for dinner, though in his heart he doesn't want him to be his guest;

- a person who offers the gift to the other one, though in his heart he knows the gift won't be accepted;

- a seller who's not honest regarding measures and scales;

- a seller who mixes qualitative goods with less qualitative ones, by this he deludes a buyer.

Four over-mentioned kinds of action and all the like are considered to be Gnevat Daat (mind theft - Biblical language translation) and make human take seeming for real.

Further, Talmud adduces some more peculiarities of the given Law.

The prohibition to abduct human. It follows from written in Talmud about "pretty woman". The one who abducts human is also the one who steals some person with the purpose to sell him into slavery, and the one who makes some person work for him and doesn't let him go, and the one who kidnaps some person with the purpose to get ransom in any form of it. In all given and similar cases the criminal misappropriates abducted one's life, what he definitely has no right on.

The prohibition to herd one's cattle at others' fields. It is known that forefather Abraham always muzzled his cattle when moving, so that it wouldn't eat grass from others' fields and meadows, met on the way. And this prohibition is actual even now for those living in country. Besides, this peculiarity of No Robbery Law means the owner takes the full responsibility for any damage his animal might cause, G-d forbid. That's why the owner must in good time undertake all necessary means to prevent that.

The prohibition to delay payment of hired worker. The master must give the payment to the worker in the precise consent with their agreement - after the expiration of day, week, month or any other conditioned period of time. The one who delays or is slow in paying to worker commits a sin equal to taking a soul from this worker. And even if the hired worker himself says he can wait for getting his payment - it's necessary to insist that he take it right away after the conditioned term expires.

The prohibition of others' money deduction. That means the prohibition to delay or try to escape from paying a debt. If one person owes some definite sum of money to another one, be it debt or payment, he's prohibited to deduct them with deceit, apologies or power, hoping at the same time that by this he will succeed and avoid returning the money at all. For example, if the person you owe to, approached you with the requirement to return a debt, you're prohibited to lie or say that you can not pay today and he should come tomorrow, if you have a possibility to pay him today already.

The prohibition of fruits from master's field. That means a hired worker busy with harvesting is prohibited to eat fruits from master's field, both during his work and after it's finished. Except for case the hired worker was beforehand allowed to eat some definite quantity of fruits after the end of harvest at the place of work (but not take them away). The matter is fruits are considered to be the master's property, and for its harvesting the hired worker was paid. Reducing of harvest resulting by such "meal" leads to the situation when the hired worker gets some definite sum of money for something he didn't give to his master, that is as if he steals those money. Both to here and in consequence of the same principal get all other similar cases like being late for work, sleeping at one's working time etc

The prohibition to leave without attention the thing lost by somebody. However, if it's possible we should take it and return to its owner. What does it mean? It means the situation when passer-by, walking in front of you, dropped something from his property's items and we can see it and must pay his attention at "running away" item. Or situation when we find somebody's thing with a strongly-marked sign of belonging to a definite person on it. One should undertake the most immediate measures to find the owner and return it to him.

The prohibition to cause material damage. And it's understood the question is not only about deliberate causing of property damage what is the direct infringement upon No Robbery Law, but about non-deliberate damage as well. Now what to do of you occasionally broke somebody's vase or unintentionally touched somebody's car in the parking? You should immediately give to the damaged part a sum compensating the caused damage or necessary to endow the damaged item with previous look and functionality. But if it's impossible to do right away, for example coz of money absence or coz the owner of a scratched car didn't come, then you may do all above-mentioned later, only do not delay and do it as soon a possible. For instance, as for scratched car you must write down a quick note with your first and last name and contact data, you can attach it to the windshield of damaged car. But one is prohibited to simply escape from "locus delicti", justifying himself with psychological shock and fear of wrath of the other part. One should remember the true fear in man should be only before Creator of all existing, but not before His creatures. And the one who does like that is similar to theft in all terms, coz he demonstrates he's not afraid of G-d Who has his life in His hands, but he's afraid of people who are not able to influence his life on their own.

RAMBAM writes ("Mishne Tora" Religious Code, Laws of Kings and Their Wars 9:9):

"The robber is both he who robbed at the rate of fewer than the smallest coin value. And if the one robbed at the rate of such sum and then another one came and robbed it from him - they both are sentenced to the death penalty for such robbery."

The Sages warn that the one who steals from his neighbor an item valued even Pruta as if takes his life from him. What is it said about? About many things that can happen in our life. For example, about miscalculation while buying some product when the seller doesn't give five cents of change to you, saying there's no such small coins in the cash-desk (if only one of you will remember to fix it later). Or, for example, about you going by public transport without paying for that, even if you went only one stop distance. That is one should be extremely careful up to the tiniest details at everything regarding money.

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