Lessons to be Learned from a Thief: Retold from Hasidic Tales

There is something to be learned from everyone. Even the thief.

Thief and his toolsThe Ten Principles

Said the maggid to Rabbi Zusya, his disciple: "I cannot teach you the principles of service. But a little child and a thief can show you what they are:

"From the child you can learn three things:

— He is merry for no particular reason;
— Never for a moment he is idle;
— When he needs something, he demands it vigorously."


The maggid of Mezritch said:

"Every lock has its key which is fitted to it and opens it. But there are strong thieves who know how to open without keys. They break the lock. So every mystery in the world can be solved by the particular kind of meditation fitted to it. But God loves the thief who breaks the lock open. I mean the man who breaks his heart for God. "

"The thief can instruct you in seven things:

— He does his service by night;
— If he does not finish what he has set out to do, in one night, he devotes the next night to it;
— He and those who work with him love one another;
— He risks his life for slight gains;
— What he takes has no value to him, that he gives it up for a very small coin;
— He endures blows and hardship, and it matters nothing to him;
— He likes his trade and would not exchange it for any other."

Doing my job as best as I can

The rabbi of Sasov once traveled about trying to collect money to ransom persons in the debtor's prison, but he did not succeed in getting together the sum he needed. Then he regretted having wasted time he might have spent studying and praying, and resolved that henceforth he would stay home. On the same day he heard that a Jew who had stolen an article of clothing had been soundly beaten and put in jail. Rabbi Moshe Leib interceded with the judge and gained the thief's release.

When the zaddik went to fetch the thief from jail, he warned him: "Remember the beating they gave you and don't ever do anything like that again!"

"Why not?" said the thief,. "If you don't succeed the first time, you may succeed the next.""If that's the case," said the rabbi to himself, "then I must keep trying at my job, too."


Barnes and Noble linkFrom: Martin Buber. Tales of the Hasidim. ©1947 and 1975 by Schocken Books (New York), p. 104. By permission of the publisher.




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